Okanagan orchardists will benefit from an $8.4 million seven-year tree fruit replant program, says B.C. Premier Christy Clark.
Clark announced the details of the program Friday afternoon at a Belgo fruit farm, accompanied by representatives of B.C.’s tree fruit industry.
“It’s about providing certainty for B.C. fruit growers,” said Clark. “And making sure we continue to showcase the best tree fruits in the world, both here at home and internationally.”
Beginning April 1, 2015, through to the 2021 season, growers will be able to apply for the new program. It is estimated that more than 600 hectares (1,500 acres) of orchards will be replanted over the next seven years providing 2,600 jobs each year for the Okanagan.
“We are proud of the heritage of B.C.’s tree fruit industry and we look forward to continuing our partnership in promoting high-value, high-quality B.C. fruit so our growers can earn more dollars,” said B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick, who is the MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.
The new program builds on the recent success of growers who replanted low- value orchards with high-demand and high-quality varieties like Ambrosia apples and late-season cherries. B.C. growers produced Canada’s second- largest tree fruit crop in 2013, generating almost $103 million in farm cash receipts. Program applications and criteria will soon be available on the BC Fruit Growers Association website.
“Growers are genuinely excited about the announcement of the replant program as the government set a goal of a sustainable, long-term replant program, and today this promise is delivered,” said BC Fruit Growers’ Association president Fred Steele, a Kelowna orchardist.
“The program matches the long-term nature of growingapples and cherries, as well as soft fruits, and it is not only appreciated, it is essential to our future. Thank you to the government MLAs and the Premier for making replant a priority.”
Focusing on high-value B.C. products are key to growing the B.C. government’s agri-foods industry to a $14-billion-a-year industry by 2017. The Ministry of Agriculture has already met 44 out of 49 targets, helping grow the overall agrifoods sector by eight per cent.