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Changes underway at fruit co-op

The new CEO of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative has begun making some changes in structure, and says he is reviewing other plans that were instigated by his predecessor.

Alan Tyabji  says he has set up a southern region of the co-op, which has its head office in Kelowna, and has named a senior manager to work out of facilities in Oliver.

Dennis Fleming, who was in charge of quality in the Kelowna facility, has now set up shop down there, to provide someone growers can connect with directly and locally.

As well, he said, a decision has been made to upgrade the Oliver cherry line, with new equipment and increased capacity, so that will become the co-op’s main cherry facility.

It will ultimately exceed Kelowna’s in both modernity and capacity, although he said the Kelowna line is more than adequate.

Plans are to focus on running export quality cherries with the Kelowna equipment.

And, there’ll be a more aggressive cherry export program, said Tyabji.

For several years, a number of properties owned by the co-op in communities like Naramata, Summerland and the north end of Kelowna, have been up for sale because they’re no longer being used or they need to be updated.

Tyabji said he is conducting a review of all those properties for sale and is looking at whether all of them will stay on the market.

Some, like the waterfront property in downtown Naramata, won’t change, but overall the plan for the future of co-op facilities is being re-examined, he said.

The OTFC capital plan is also being reviewed to see if it’s still relevant, he said.

Modernization work which would include a state-of-the-art brine chiller and cooler system for the Controlled Atmosphere storage facility in Winfield will still go ahead, although there’s some question now about whether it would be for Kelowna or Winfield, he said.

A $2.7 million grant from the federal/provincial AgriFlex fund was announced early this year to allow the co-op to embark on a $44 million infrastructure modernization, beginning with the new, more environmentally-friendly CA storage system—a $5.25 million project.

Winfield contains more than a quarter of the co-op’s total storage in the valley, and some of the most modern equipment.

 

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com

 

 

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