Industry upheaval leaves grower association in the red

Uncertainty and upheaval in the tree fruit industry, along with government cutbacks, is pinching agricultural associations.

Upheaval and uncertainty in the tree fruit industry are reflected in industry organizations, as the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association deals with a budget shortfall that was even more than budgeted for last year.

BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas says this year’s budget, to be presented to members at the 124th annual convention Saturday in Penticton, will be a break-even budget for 2013, but he’s not sure how much they’ll be able to accomplish under such restrictions.

Changes in the membership of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative, where most of the BCFGA members’ annual dues are checked off, has been part of the reason for the reduction, along with government programs which the grower lobby group has administered for government in other years, for a fee.

The BCFGA will administer the government replant program too, which begins this year, but Lucas said there’s a shortage of fruit trees for growers to replant, so funding from that quarter could be less than expected as well.

Import restrictions on trees from Europe has the replant program scrambling to find stock.

“Some growers may not find the trees to do particular replant projects,” said Lucas.

There’s lots of interest from growers in investing in replanting to new varieties, with some assistance from senior governments, but the actual replant may be 10 to 15 per cent below projections because of a shortage of stock, he said.

As far as other programs are concerned, Lucas said government is backing away from programs that normally would be available to stabilize the industry in uncertain times, so the BCFGA also feels the pinch.

Organizations such as the Canadian Horticulture Council are in similar positions, he added.

The BCFGA had budgeted for a $17,000 loss last year. Lucas wouldn’t elaborate on how much it actually was, but said that would be presented to growers at Saturday’s meeting.

The annual meeting has been reduced to a single day this year, so members will have a lot of issues to deal with in a short period of time, including whether growers should form an Apple Research and Promotion Agency to gather funds from all growers to put toward those services.

They would be funded through check-off levies to ensure that every grower fairly contributes to mutually beneficial projects.

A vote will be held on whether to hold a grower vote on forming ARPA, said Lucas. It’s a vital vote which he is very hopeful will be approved by the membership.

Growers will also hold elections on their executive for the coming year. Both Fred Steele of Kelowna and Jeet Dukhia of Vernon have been nominated for president, while Dukhia and former president Joe Sardinha of Summerland have been nominated for vice-president.

Although Kirpal Boparai of Kelowna was elected president last year, he resigned last month, so vice-president Dukhia is serving in that post at present.


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