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Farmers protest BC Tree Fruits surprise facility move from Kelowna to Oliver

BC Tree Fruits cancelled the in person meeting after learning about the peaceful protest

BC Tree Fruits made the last-minute decision to switch to a virtual meeting regarding a closure of a large Kelowna plant after hearing of protests.

“Unfortunately, our live event meeting scheduled for this evening in Kelowna will now be held via Zoom as security concerns have been raised by the host hotel, due to potentially disruptive protest activity,” said Warren Sarafinchan, President and CEO of BC Tree Fruits Cooperative.

Fruit growers held a peaceful protest in the parking lot of the Ramada, with two tractors being used as podiums for speeches.

The protest comes after a change of plans for a new fruit packing facility in the Okanagan were announced.

On Aug. 17, BC Tree Fruits announced that packing functions will be slowed at the Kelowna and Lake Country facilities in order to focus on upgrading the Oliver packing house.

READ MORE: BC Tree Fruits to close Lake Country plant, invest in Oliver

Growers are expressing concern that the Oliver location will be more costly for farmers living around Kelowna.

Orchards in the North Okanagan, around Kelowna, produce over 75 percent of the apples grown in the Okanagan, said Gurjit Pabla, a farmer who has been working with BC Tree Fruits, formerly Vernon Fruit Union, for the past 45 years.

“When they make such a big decision it should be a general house meeting, not just the directors… The growers should have a say in it,” said Pabla.

Mohini Singh said that the City of Kelowna supports the fruit growers, and supports keeping the packing house in the central Okanagan.

Capital News has reached out to BC Tree Fruits for comment.


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

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