Friday , December 4 2020

B.C. Raspberry farmers feel squeezed as buyers seek cheaper products



Abbotsford TJ Deol raspberry farmer considers her options like B.C. Raspberry industry faces strong competition from cheap imports.

Francis Georgian / / Postmedia News

All TJ Deol was never wanted to do was farm.

Growing up on a 40 acre family raspberry farm in Abbotsford, he intended to work with his father after finishing the university.

But now, 25 years old and with a business degree to his name, he is not sure about his future on the sandy land that produces some of Canada's best blues.

"I've never known exactly what I wanted to do," said Saturday. "My dad is not sure, however. It's worried that there is no future here."

In November, the family gave down 10 acres of cans – about a quarter of their crop – with plans to replant in blueberries. Aunt, who owns a nearby raspberry farm, has also turned a field.

Looking out over muddy land again and again, Deol is unsure that it will be enough: "Do I think we should have a job as an accountant?"

TJ Deol on the family raspberry farm that faces strong competition from cheap imports.

Francis Georgian / /

PNG

Last year was one of the most stringent seasons in the recent memory of B.C. raspberries, says James Bergen, chairman of the Barber Industry Development Council. "Buyers were looking for a product."

B.C. farmers sell their berries on the global market, competing with growers from countries where labor is cheap. At current world prices, it's hard to B.C. Farmers, who face substantially higher land and labor costs, to turn profits, even with the benefit of better technology.

Our northern climate also creates sweet, non-transported berries, causing the local crop to be processed mainly in jams, juices and gelferes. But the likelihood of the sea in your ice cream or yoghurt comes from B.C. reduces with the growth of imported berries from countries such as Mexico and China, as well as Eastern Europe.

"Buyers are looking for the cheaper rate," said Bergen.

The Ministry of Agriculture statistics reveal that in B.C. in 2014 Import three million kilograms of embroidery in different forms of frozen to boil. By 2018, that number had climbed to 5.8 million kg.

As a result, B.C. farmers have been leaving the raspberry industry and turning to other crops and, sometimes, other professions.

"Nothing lasts forever, but it's still a bit sad," said Sukh Kahlon, president of the B.C. Raspberry Growers Association. "These are family family farms that have been growing raspberries for a long time, with expertise that has been transferred."

While B.C. remains the largest province producing raspberries in Canada, production has been declining since the 1980's when it reached about 40 million pounds on 6,000 acres, according to the Ministry of Agriculture figures.

Over the last five years, the production has varied between 12 and 20 million pounds at about 2,500 acres, mainly in the Fraser Valley. In the past, raspberry farming has dropped another fifth, dropping to about 2,000 acres.

"The industry has let us know that the biggest challenge that has been losing market share to cheaper spinning from other regions," said the Ministry's spokesman at News Postmedia. "In particular, they were hurt by frozen raspberry imports and raspberries by regions from lower production regions."

Kahlon said the local industry was looking for ways of "playing field level" by working to develop types that grow well in B.C. and the production of advanced products or berries can better handle transport.

"That's a 10 to 15 year process," he said. "Meanwhile prices come down and costs are going up. How do you do both lines meet?"

Handful of B.C. raspberries in the harvest. Raspberries are usually ready in the early summer and will be a highlight during the last two weeks of July.

Vancouver Sun

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