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Growers' president tossed out of co-op

Local orchardist Kirpal Boparai picking Gala apples from his orchard in KLO - Douglas Farrow/Contributor
Local orchardist Kirpal Boparai picking Gala apples from his orchard in KLO
— image credit: Douglas Farrow/Contributor

The president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association has been ousted from the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative, the largest packinghouse in the valley, for not honouring his commitment to the co-operative to ship his fruit there.

Kirpal Boparai says since he was elected president of the grower lobby organization early this year and since he’s been talking about the need for change in the co-operative, they have been “making it tough for me.”

“They don’t want me to ask questions or call for changes,” he added.

However, board president Rob Dawson says losing membership in the co-operative is a consequence of not honouring your contract to sell all your apples through that co-operative.

All members are responsible for sharing the cost of the co-operative’s overhead and if a member doesn’t fulfill his commitment, the costs for the remaining members increases, he explained.

When there’s a breach of contract a member can be thrown out of the co-op, he added.

Boparai says many growers don’t have confidence in the co-operative any more and changes to upper management need to be made. They need to be more aggressive, he said. They also need to cut back on staff, he added.

OTFC CEO Gary Schieck says he strongly disagrees with remarks made by Boparai that the co-operative’s workers are lazy and that they do not understand grower needs. “I certainly appreciate the dedication and expertise of the management team, their respective departments and all employees across the organization, especially in this complex industry.

“We recognize the results are not always satisfactory to all growers, but we strive to maximize their returns in areas that are within our control, and have strategies for continual improvement,” he said in a statement.

The co-op is owned by 580 growers and their families, packing, marketing and distributing a variety of fruit, including apples, pears, cherries, peaches, apricots, prune plums and blueberries.

Through its marketing arm, B.C. Tree Fruits, the co-op’s fruit is sold to major retail and wholesale outlets across Canada and beyond its borders, as it has for more than 75 years.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

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