Ontario’s fruit crops, especially apples and tender fruit like peaches and nectarines, have been hugely damaged by frost, and that could mean an increase in fruit prices come fall, growers say.

Warm weather in March caused trees to bloom early but that warmth was followed by sub-zero temperatures, which decimated crops in the province.

“It’s like no other season I’ve ever had. I’ve been apple farming for 52 years and we’ve never had a crop loss like this one,” Tom Chudleigh, owner of Chudleigh’s Apple Farm in Halton Hills, told CityNews.ca.

“We can’t tell what per cent of the crop is lost just yet, but the loss is somewhere between 60 and 80 per cent. We’ll know exactly by June 15, when the fruit has developed further.”

It’s not just Ontario that’s affected. Michigan, northern Ohio, New York and Quebec have all suffered huge losses — about 16 million bushels of apples.

Even though Nova Scotia and British Columbia appear to have a full crop, Chudleigh said, it can’t make up the lost 16 million bushels.

“What I can tell you that the average Ontario apple crop has a value of about $60 million and some farmers have lost their total crop,” said Brian Gilroy, chair of the Ontario Apple Growers.

“I can’t put a value on the total crop – one expert put the number at $400 million – but the losses to that total have been significant.”

For consumers, that means an increase in prices is likely.

“There’s no government pricing for apples — it does move on market demand — so the price will definitely be higher,” Chudleigh said.

There will be fewer apples for sale and many will be sold for juice, Gilroy agreed.

“For farmers who do have apples, they won’t have the quantity to sell that they normally would so we’ll definitely see fewer Ontario apples in the stores this fall, and the apples that are left will show the effects of cold damage, ” Gilroy said.

Chudleigh’s Apple Farm is a popular day trip for Toronto residents. Chudleigh said that to make up for the loss of apple picking, he’s planning more entertainment at the farm.

Not all Ontario crops have been affected. A strawberry farmer in Milton said his crops weren’t damaged by the sudden weather changes.

“We grow strawberries here and our plants seem to be fine,” John Hughes, owner of Springridge Farm, told CityNews.ca

“The blossoms hadn’t opened yet and were still deep in the crown of the plant. They didn’t have the damage that the apple farmers had.”