Orchardists to elect a new president

Tree fruit growers will meet in Kelowna this month to discuss the industry's issues and elect a new president and vote on the executive.

Orchardists will elect a new president at this month’s 123rd annual convention in Kelowna.

Joe Sardinha has served as president for the past seven years, and was on the executive of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association for four years prior to that.

Vice-president Fred Steele and Kirpal Boparai, both of Kelowna, have been nominated for the position, but nominations could be opened from the floor as well.

Water will be the theme for this year’s event, which will be held at the Coast Capri Hotel. Keynote speaker will be UBC-O assistant professor in anthropology John Wagner, talking about the Columbia River Treaty.

The annual general meeting will consist of a Thursday afternoon business session, followed by a Friday morning policy session, Jan. 26 and 27.

However, there will be a reception Thursday evening, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Laurel Packinghouse on Ellis Street, where the B.C. Orchard Industry and the Wine Museums are located.

Thursday’s agenda includes the financial statements, budget, reports from industry organizations, discussions about the environment and water, and project updates. It will run from 1 to 5 p.m.

Friday will feature the annual election of officers, including selection of a new president.

Amarjit Lalli, who was elected to the board last year, has been nominated for vice-president, along with Jeet Dukhia, who is not currently a member of the board.

Members will also consider such issues as labour, financial programs and member services at the Friday morning session which runs from 8 a.m. to noon.

Federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz will not be attending this year, but Sardinha said he’s hopeful that provincial minister Don McRae will be able to attend and will speak to orchardists Friday morning.

With even fewer growers on the membership roster than a year ago, BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas said he’s not expecting a large turnout.

However, those who do attend likely will be feeling frustrated by the past three years of low returns and the lack of government support for agriculture in general.

“Something needs to change,” commented Lucas, adding, “and government needs to take on some of that role.

“Without government there as a meaningful partner, there’s a sense of real uncertainty, which isn’t good for business,” he said.

“Time is of the essence. We need to know where we stand,” he said.

Resolutions growers have drafted to be discussed at this year’s meeting include one calling on government to re-instate the orchard replant or grafting program which provided some assistance for orchard renewal.

Growers are also concerned about the possible impact of any introduction of genetically-modified organisms to the industry and one resolution calls on regional districts to declare this area a genetically-engineered-free zone.

A resolution to support an agriculture water reserve has also been proposed, along with an increase in the province’s agriculture budget.



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