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Europe’s ban on Canadian fruit could deal a $7 million blow to the industry: data

The European Union's decision to halt imports of some Canadian fresh fruits has caught growers by surprise. Jules Knox reports on why the ban is being put in place.

The European Union‘s (EU) plan to halt imports of certain fresh fruits and plants from Canada starting next month could mean a blow of as much as $6 million to the Great White North’s fruit industry.

That’s according to a Global News analysis of trade data focused specifically on the fruits that are subject to this measure.

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) informed cherry producers on Thursday about the EU’s intention to enforce “new import requirements related to pests of fresh fruits and plants for planting.”

“As of this date, fresh fruit of the following genera will not be permitted entry into the EU,” the notice said.

The CFIA listed fresh fruit of five different families — “prunus,” which includes cherries; “malus,” which covers apples; “pyrus,” which includes pears; “vaccinium,” which takes in blueberries; and “solanaceae,” which includes potatoes.

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READ MORE: EU will soon stop importing cherries, other fruits from Canada — CFIA

Global News used the federal government’s “Trade Data Online” tool to estimate what this could mean for the country’s fruit industry.

The analysis involved gathering fruits from these families specifically, then seeing how much of them were shipped to the European Union in each of the last five years, by dollar volume.

Canada shipped a median amount of approximately $7 million worth of these products to Europe between 2014 and 2018.

The annual dollar volumes broke down like this:

2014 — $10,836,226

2015 — $4,291,088

2016 — $2,339,392

2017 — $8,406,440

2018 — $6,822,007

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The median for those five years was $6,822,007 — Global News used this figure because averages can be skewed by anomalous amounts.

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Further analysis of the data showed that cherry producers — which are largely concentrated in B.C. — could be hit especially hard.

Cherries were the biggest export out of any of these products over that time frame, representing a median amount of just under $5 million.

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The numbers appeared accurate to Glen Lucas, general manager of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association.

But he noted that the impact could be felt even stronger in B.C.’s Okanagan, where many cherry growers are located.

“That impact is felt very much regionally,” Lucas told Global News.

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Fruit exports to the European Union only represent about 1.5 per cent of totals to all countries in a given year, the data showed.

The effect, however, can sting even more in areas where the produce is concentrated, he said.

“That 1.5 per cent is much more amplified in the Okanagan, it becomes a much larger percentage of our total production,” Lucas said.

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The ban on certain Canadian fruits exacerbates the challenge for Okanagan farmers because plantings have been growing fast over the past decade, he added.

“A cherry tree that was planted five years ago is basically going to almost double its production every year until it gets up to a maximum maturity,” Lucas said.

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“We’re going to see continued strong growth in cherry production in B.C., and an ever-growing need to access export markets.”

The EU announcement has therefore produced concern for the fruit industry — but also confusion.

The notice from the CFIA said that the EU plans to start enforcing this new rule on Sept. 1.

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“What we understand from the notice is that the CFIA is basically putting people on notice that things could happen on Sept. 1,” Lucas said.

“But I don’t read into that notice that it will actually happen. It’s more risk management that we might be shut out of that market.”

The CFIA has issued a statement saying that it is working to keep producers from being affected.

“It is important to not that we are in close communication with Canadian authorities and are actively looking at ways to avoid any disruption,” the agency said.

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Fruit producers wouldn’t be the only agricultural producers challenged by a ban on exports this year.

China announced in June a ban on Canadian meat that could hit over a fifth of the pork that Canada exports abroad.