Fruit growers clash at meeting

It was a fractious meeting that saw hundreds of orchardists turf out two of three incumbents on the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative board.

It was a fractious meeting that saw hundreds of orchardists gather in Peachland from around the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys Thursday afternoon to turf out two of three incumbents on the board of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative and replace them with growers calling for changes.

Exactly what changes they wish to make remains to be seen because in their three-minute talks prior to election, most were not specific. However, there were some shrill voices raised during the business discussions at the five-hour meeting and a lot of finger pointing.

Elected to represent the northern half of the valley on the 10-member board was Karmjit Gill, of Kelowna, while Kirpal Boparai and

Colin Pritchard, also of Kelowna, tied for the second northern post on the board.

Defeated was incumbent Steve Day, along with

Brian Porter, both of Kelowna. Jim Elliot, of Oyama, did not stand for re-election, after serving the first three years of the newly-amalgamated co-operative’s existence as president of the board.

In the south, Ron Vollo, of Summerland, was re-elected, and Darshan Jassar, of Penticton, unseated incumbent Claude Moreira on the board.

The other board members are Sam DiMaria, of Kelowna, Malcolm Mitchell, of Winfield, Philip Patara, of Kelowna, Nirmal Dhaliwal, of Oliver and Jack Machial, of Oliver.

Immediately following the annual general meeting of the OTFC, board members voted Pritchard onto the board, so Boparai was defeated in his bid for a seat.

The board also elected Rob Dawson, of Cawston, as interim president, until a special meeting set for Nov. 9.

Growers complained that they are not making a living in the tree fruit industry, and some suggested the co-operative should take lower quality fruit, rather than diverting it to be processed, which pays just a few cents a pound.

“You’re grading us out of business,” claimed Kelowna grower Brian Witzke, to which Elliot responded that customers demand high quality or they’ll buy their fruit from other producers.

Growers also learned about plans for modernizing the packinghouse infrastructure and about plans for a new CanadaGap certification program for the tree fruit industry.