By Rachel Ward, CBC News
Nova Scotia grapes are now covered by provincial crop insurance to help farmers whose vines are harmed by severe weather.
This is the first time grapes will be covered in the province. Farmers have been previously left absorbing the loss of damaged vines, Nova Scotia Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell said.
“At least you’ll have insurance to replant and get back in business as quickly as possible,” Colwell said.
The insurance is administered by the province and funded through premiums paid by farmers that grow more than two dozen types of crops, from high bush blueberries to Brussels sprouts.
Across the province, around 70 farms grow more than 800 acres of grapes, according to the association representing Nova Scotia wineries. It’s an industry that’s growing, Colwell said, and farmers will be more likely to qualify for loan financing if vines are insured.
“We’ve got an emerging industry and this makes it more attractive for people to invest in Nova Scotia,” Colwell said.
Without insurance, farmers absorbed losses
Such insurance would have helped Gerry Chute, a grape farmer in Bear River, N.S., and the president of the Grape Growers Association of Nova Scotia.
He says he lost 25,000 kilograms of grapes worth about $50,000 in the 2014 season following frost and a very snowy winter.
“I would have been able to recover 80 per cent of my loss if I would have had an 80 per cent premium, which is what I’m looking at,” Chute said.
‘An optimist who carries an umbrella’
Chute absorbed that loss, but he’s expecting a “tremendous financial crunch down the road” because the weather also damaged newly planted vines. Those vines may need another couple years before they produce a full grape harvest, he said.
“It only takes one thing to go wrong, like a late spring frost, an early fall frost, a dry season, poor pollination, hurricanes, and that’s just to name a few,” Chute said.
“I’ve even seen guys have hail in August.”
Chute expects to pay between $4,000 and $5,000 for an annual insurance plan on his roughly $100,000 in annual sales.
“I’m an optimist who carries an umbrella. I’ll buy the insurance,” Chute said. “I’ll sleep better at night.”
The Nova Scotia Crop and Livestock Insurance Commission is now accepting applications from grape farmers to be assessed for coverage