UTSC students try their hand at selling apples despite rainy weather.

Dry harvest for apples hurts Scarborough farmers to the core

From the new iPhone to the red McIntosh apple, the fruit seems to be in short supply nowadays. Feeling the effects of a dry harvest, vendors at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Farmers’ Market are dealing with the problem of having fewer apples to sell to consumers.

“It’s been bad, really bad. The McIntosh for example: we usually pick 300 to 350 bins a year. We only picked five this year,” said Pratheep Tharavjnah, a Scarborough orchard farmer.

After unusually warm weather in the spring, many of the apple buds started blooming early. Followed by a brutal frost at the tail end of April, the buds were killed by the odd climate and the few that were left yielded only a handful of apples.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture reports that Ontario, Canada’s largest producer of the tasty fruit, harvests about 300 million pounds of apple a year. However, with more than half of that total gone this year, many farmers are concerned. According to the head of Farmers’ Markets Ontario, Robert Troian, apple crops have gone down 80 to 90 per cent from last year.

“Apples weren’t the only fruits affected,” Troian said. “Peaches have been affected and so have cherries […] It’s been a hard year.”

Tharavjnah, whose farm was a casualty of the drought, has had to raise prices of apples by a dollar from the usual $2 a bushel.

“Prices have gone up just to break even, and we have zero apples like the Empire so, variety is something we won’t have much of,” Tharavjnah said.

However he added that other fruits like strawberries have garnered greater flavour despite the dry season.

“Well most producers have a variety of crops so they will replace it with something else,” Troian said. “They suffer from those kinds of things and that’s the plight of the farmer – I mean farming is not easy.”