'Our crop is contaminated': B.C. vegetable crops destroyed by floodwaters
Gurdip Khaira looks over one of his 20-acre fields of broccoli, but all he sees is water.
He says the crop was finally ready to harvest when it was swallowed up by floodwaters.
“(We’re) just depressed, (but) what can we do?” Khaira said.
At a nearby field, acre after acre of cabbage is going to waste.
The same is true for Brussels sprouts.
“Our crop is contaminated. It starts to rot and we can’t harvest,” explained vegetable-grower Opinder Bhatti.
“We were depressed. We were not expecting that much water or dirty water,” he added.
The Fraser Valley Cole Crop Association estimates crops in about 500 acres of fields have been destroyed.
Preliminary estimates put the loss of produce at 3,800 tonnes.
“We have advised all growers that any fields where the product has not been harvested and the field flooded, those fields are to be considered contaminated and the crop will remain in the ground.” said Murray Driediger, president of BC Fresh.
Vegetables in storage facilities that were flooded must also be tossed out.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun says he’s seen the damage first-hand.
“I am concerned about the farmers that weren’t able to harvest their cole crops and they’re going to be without revenue,” he said.
Khaira said farmers have “suffered a lot.”
“We’re definitely going to need some financial assistance,” he said.
The Ministry of Agriculture says the provincial and federal governments have committed to work together and are “listening intently to those impacted” and planning to provide support.
This includes developing an AgriRecovery program with its key focus on “helping producers through the assessment and recovery phases.”
The province says it’s also allowing late participation in the AgriStability program for 2021.
But growers say they need the funding now if they are to survive.
“We cannot harvest,” said Bhatti. “We have lots of bills to pay. The land rent, the seeds.”
BC Fresh says substantial testing of water and soil is being done to make sure the ground is suitable for the next crops, which start getting planted in March. Tests of vegetables in flooded storage facilities have so far come back negative.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture says damage from flooding is still being assessed, making it difficult to know if prices for produce in grocery stores will be affected.
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