The federal agriculture minister was in the Okanagan on Monday to announce investment in new apple and cherry varieties.
Marie-Claude Bibeau said $4.2 million will be available in B.C. and Ontario to breed varieties of the tree fruits that will help growers make better profit on their crops.
“It is amazing to consider that British Columbia accounts for three quarters of all Canadian exports of tree fruits,” Bibeau said.
Under the initiative, Summerland research teams will begin collaborating with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario to modernize their breeding and selection techniques.
The techniques used help identify traits in very young plants, according to Summerland Varieties Corp research program manager Erin Wallich.
“They will be able to determine if an apple tree will produce crisp fruit before that tree is even old enough to flower for the first time,” Wallich said. “They will also develop modern technologies such as computer visioning to quickly and accurately evaluate thousands of genotypes so that they can identify those one or two tree fruit selections that are the most promising.”
“The result will be many more cultivars with the potential to be transformative to the tree fruit industry in the way Staccato and Centennial were transformative to the cherry industry,” she said.
Harvest date optimization, long term storage and consumer choice will also be researched.
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“The announcement for the research funding for new varieties will ensure our industry and the value that it creates will continue into the future,” B.C. Fruit Growers Association president Bhupinder Dhaliwal said.
Between 2011 and 2016, Okanagan tree fruit acreage increased by six per cent, production increased by 10 per cent, while farm-to-gate value increased by 51 per cent, according to Dhaliwal.
Canadian fruit growers are increasingly reaching out to international markets for new profits.
Japan opened it’s market for fresh B.C. cherries in 2018 and is set to eliminate a 17 per cent tariff on Canadian apples due to new regulations negotiated under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
“This could mean new sales of up to $8 million a year for our cherry growers,” Bibeau said.
A 20 per cent tariff on fresh B.C. cherries will also be eliminated in Vietnam under the CPTPP.
By 2025, the Liberal government hopes to meet a target of $75 billion in agri-food exports.