Instead of creating a new industry-wide B.C. Cherry Council with mandatory fees, cherry growers have decided to set that initiative aside.
But the Okanagan-Kootenay Cherry Growers Association is changing, both in name and in scope, to better tackle the work to be done. It will now be known as the B.C. Cherry Association which is simpler, better describes the production region, and reflects its broader scope, explains president Christine Dendy.
It’s now more like a trade association and members include not only growers but also packers, researchers, brokers, and others involved in the cherry industry.
Its structure has also been changed, delegating major functions to two committees: market and research.
Dendy said hopes earlier this year of forming a B.C. Cherry Council that would represent all growers and levy a fee per acre to go toward market development, research and promotion, did not work out.
She said growers understood the challenges facing the industry and strongly supported the role proposed for the council, but the concept of a weighted vote was opposed by a number of the smaller growers, and the Industry Development Steering Committee did not wish to see the initiative politicized and turned into a divisive industry issue.
The difficulty is that 20 per cent of growers produce about 80 per cent of the fruit, while the other 80 per cent of growers produce the other 20 per cent of the cherries in the province, she explained.
The growth the industry is facing, both in BC and in adjacent Washington State, means a lot of work has to be done to promote B.C. fruit and expand markets for it, she explained.
The restructured association will continue to work on access to new markets such as China and to put money into research efforts, but it will be made up of those who are prepared to join and commit financial support to industry development, she said.
Efforts to gain access to the Chinese market are moving along, said Dendy, and preparations are being made for possible shipping of the first cherries this summer.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that continued talks and exchanges of information will result in trade conditions we can work with,” commented Dendy.
It’s expected that Chinese authorities will visit the Okanagan in July to do an inspection, she said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has registered growers and packers interested in shipping to China, in preparation for a positive outcome of talks, she noted.
Last month, a number of new members were elected to the BCCA board including Joe Hart, Gord Sandhu, Ravi Dhaliwal, Manjinder Khela, Bill Sandhers, Don Westcott, Andre Bailey and David Geen of Coral Beach Farms in Lake Country who chairs the Market Access Group.
Continuing directors include vice-president Sukhpaul Bal, the other David Geen who remains as treasurer, Graem Nelson who remains as secretary, Greg Norton and Chris Danninger who chairs the Research Committee.
Researcher Peter Toivonen remains on the board ex-officio.