Nova Scotia is the only province to dedicate more land to apple orchards
Except maybe in men’s basketball, we don’t beat Ontario and British Columbia in too many categories, but the stats showing Nova Scotia is now the country’s top apple exporter didn’t surprise Emily Lutz. .
“We’ve seen Nova Scotia apple market share grow quite steadily over the past decade,” said Lutz, executive director of the Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association.
Statistics Canada figures for 2021 place Nova Scotia as the number one international exporter of fresh apples by value, with exports valued at $17.6 million, ahead of British Columbia’s $16.5 million and Ontario’s $12.6 million.
The province has 4,924 acres of land devoted to apples, the fourth largest area in the country, and from 2016 to 2021, apple acreage increased by 11.5% in Nova Scotia while it declined everywhere else in Canada .
“Farmers in Nova Scotia have been open and willing to adapt to a changing agricultural landscape, and farmers who adapt their cropping technology, the varieties they grow, have been given good support to really make apples a viable crop,” Lutz said.
The strategy of replacing old tall trees with high-density varieties grown on very specific rootstocks is bearing fruit for the local industry.
“These smaller trees are planted on a trellis system, which helps them stay upright and also allows you to plant more trees per acre. Planting them this close together means you save quite a bit on maintenance costs, on your orchard inputs, because you can plant fewer acres with more trees, which means better value, a better yield on the same acre.
Apple varieties such as Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, Sweetango and Pizzazz offer higher yield than older traditional varieties, so there is more profit to be invested in making orchards more efficient, even though all apples are still harvested at the hand.
“A lot of new varieties also require a stem clip. Every apple picked from a tree requires the stem to be clipped so it doesn’t puncture the skin of other apples in a bin or bag at a grocery store,” Lutz said. .
David Parrish, president and CEO of the Scotian Gold Cooperative, which controls 60 per cent of apples grown in Atlantic Canada, said openness to change is what puts the province ahead.
“We still consider ourselves here in Nova Scotia number 4 in terms of volume: Ontario, BC, Quebec and then us,” Parrish said.
Parrish said 35% of the co-op’s apples are exported outside of Canada, primarily to the United States, but also to the Caribbean and, over the past two years, to a few markets in Asia.
“We know we need to expand our markets, and doing that in the midst of COVID has certainly been challenging logistically, with containers that are supposed to take 30 days taking 70 or 80 days.”