Tree fruit industry strengthened

On Jan. 28, I had the honour of speaking to the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association at their convention in Penticton.

Ben Stewart

On Jan. 28, I had the honour of speaking to the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association at their convention in Penticton.

Being both a third generation farmer and the minister of agriculture, the success of the tree fruit industry is very important to me.

This is why I was so pleased to be able to announce the launch of the $5-million Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Innovation Initiative in Penticton.

Funded by the provincial and federal governments, this program will support industry innovators in testing new technologies and trying out new products and markets.

It will also help our growers to build on our strong track record of leadership when it comes to providing high quality and sustainably produced fruit.

If you represent a tree fruit association, company or processor with an idea that will bring long-term benefits and increase industry profile, I strongly encourage you to get in touch with the BCFGA.

Proposals being sought focus on initiatives such as market and product development, water conservation, and innovative packing and storage infrastructure.

The tree fruit industry faces challenges arising from increased competition and a stronger dollar, and this program will help.

It will help by enabling the innovation of our growers and assisting them in the development of new markets.

We have to think differently, be creative and find solutions to the challenges facing this industry.

Consumer trends will also help. More than ever before, people are thinking about food security and sustainability.

People want to know where their food comes from, who grows it, and what’s in it (the 100 Mile Diet is perhaps the most famous example of this trend).

This is an incredible opportunity for our tree fruit industry with its 122-year-old reputation for unique, flavourful and great tasting products.

We all know that eating locally-grown produce is good for our farmers, our health and the environment. What we need to do now is make it easier for people to buy local.

Growers need to encourage retailers to embrace the “buy local” movement through creative partnering.

The spotlight is on agriculture and this is a time of incredible opportunity for the industry.

We all have a role to play in strengthening our tree fruit industry.

The provincial and federal governments are helping by enabling innovation, consumers can help by buying local, and growers can grow in strength by utilizing partnerships in the marketplace to nurture and develop the latent demand for locally grown produce.

For more information on the B.C. Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Innovation Initiative, contact the BCFGA at info@bcfga.com or visit www.bcfga.com.

Ben Stewart is the Liberal MLA for Westside-Kelowna.

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