Okanagan orchards struggle to find enough hands to pick fruit at harvest time – Vernon News

There is a significant shortage of pickers in the Okanagan this year, leaving fruit hanging from trees.

Ron Forrest, workforce director for the BC Fruit Growers Association, says there are up to 40 percent fewer fruit pickers in the valley this year.

The labor shortage continues as orchards and vineyard owners continue to harvest. Fruits ripen at different times, and there is a short window of opportunity for picking them.

“Some farmers won’t be able to pick their fruit,” Forrest said. “Not for the whole orchard, but they will leave some on the trees.”

The shortage can be blamed on this pesky virus that turned everything upside down.

“Much of it is linked to COVID. Usually we have quite a few people coming from different countries … but we haven’t had any this year at all, ”said Forrest.

BCFGA chief executive Glen Lucas said small farms were hit hardest by the labor shortage, so many rely on family and friends to help with the harvest.

“The biggest impact is probably on small producers, those with smaller acreage, because they depend more on a team on site for a day or two and this is where the greatest shortage is. workers. It’s in these backpackers traveling from farm to farm, ”Lucas said. “In response to this, farmers are using more family labor, but there is still a shortage of workers. “

Lucas said many orchards have to decide which crops to harvest and which to leave on the tree or vine.

Some crops have been affected by the summer heatwave, and growers may decide to abandon them altogether.

“The other thing that’s happening this year is we’re getting a shortened harvest window. It doesn’t spread out as much. So that means you need more workers in less time, ”Lucas said.

How these challenges will play out at the consumer level has yet to be determined.

Lucas said the first choice is to hire local workers, and anyone looking for temporary work can call Forrest at 778-363-3620.

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