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Newcomers elected to top posts for B.C. fruit growers
It was an election that won’t soon be forgotten, as East Indian orchardists from around the valley turned out en masse in the last few hours of the two-day B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association annual convention to reject vice-president Fred Steele’s bid for president, and elect Kirpal Boparai instead.
Despite the fact there is a large contingent of East Indian growers in the valley, he is the first East Indian president of the BCFGA.
Both are Kelowna growers and both have squared off for the post of vice-president in the past, with Boparai serving in that position in 2009 and 2010.
Incumbent president Joe Sardinha had announced months earlier that he would not run for re-election after seven years in the top post of the lobby group. He had served four more on the executive, including in the vice-president’s chair just prior to his election as president.
Elected vice-president was Jeet Dukhia of Vernon, a newcomer to the executive of the 123-year-old growers’ lobby group.
He grows apples on 33 acres and cherries on two acres and has been farming for 37 years, while Boparai says he has been farming all his life, and has lived in Kelowna for 39 years, working in the orchard industry.
He farms 70 acres in East Kelowna, including 23 he owns and the remainder he leases. Of the total, 10 acres are in cherries while the rest are in apples.
His focus will be on getting money to growers, he said, because, “People are hurting.”
The BCFGA was lacking in strong leadership and a change was in order, he said.
Dukhia agreed with Boparai that the organization’s focus should be on Victoria and Ottawa to get money for growers.
“We’re tied to the land, yet there are no longer the income insurance programs that were part of the marriage when the Agricultural Land Reserve was brought in. The marriage is broken,” he commented.
“We don’t want handouts,” he added. “Just a mechanism in place so we meet the costs of production in the bad years. We’ll pay into it in the good years.”
He defeated incumbent director Denise MacDonald of Summerland in his bid for vice-president, after Kelowna grower Amarjit Lalli withdrew his name.
Steele was nominated, but declined.
Re-elected were Peter Simonsen of Naramata, Nirmal Dhaliwal of Oliver, Denise MacDonald of Summerland, Madeleine van Roechoudt of Lake Country and Amarjit Lalli of Kelowna.
Also elected for the first time to the executive was Jora Dhaliwal of Kelowna.