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Okanagan growers continue to squeeze fruit co-op for answers

Growers have several concerns with how the BC Tree Fruits Cooperative conducts business
Approximately 30 Okanagan fruit growers gathered in front of Kelowna’s Ramada Inn where BC Tree Fruit Cooperative members were meeting on June 5, 2024. (Gary Barnes/Kelowna Capital News)

Approximately 30 growers gathered in front of Kelowna’s Ramada Inn on Wednesday (June 5) where members of the BC Tree Fruit Cooperative were meeting.

The gathering followed a protest at the BCTFC offices on May 29.

Growers’ concerns are numerous, including less than promised payment for crops, and a lack of communication from the BCTFC.

Speaking on behalf of growers, Amarjit Lali said that the average packing house price for apples this year is 13 cents per pound, but the cost of production is 34 cents.

“I’ve seen a 12 per cent decrease in the value of my crop, and some growers have seen drastic reductions of up to 50 per cent. The crop was mishandled and the growers are paying for it.”

Lali added that growers were promised 40 cents a pound when a new packing house was built in Oliver, despite their objections.

“Well, the money has been spent and the return is 13 cents. Somebody has to be held accountable.”

The average price has been running between 13 and 19 cents a pound for the past five years, Lali said.

Growers are not paid up-front for their crops instead the BCTFC provides a projected price and farmers are given four advances throughout the year.

Some growers Kelowna Capital News spoke to said they got a bill when Co-op projections were not realized.

“Now they’re being told to give the money back,” Lali explained. “So, the grower spent the money to grow the apples and at the end of it we’re getting a bill.”

Lali said BCTFC management has become complacent and no longer has the trust of growers.

“There have been a lot of irregularities regarding the rules of the cooperative and how they’re being followed. The group (growers) have asked for investigations to be done. The board has refused.”

Lali has asked Premier David Eby to appoint an overseer to look at whether the BCTFC is following its own rules, adding growers are still open to dialogue.

“The last resort is pulling the plug and taking our fruit somewhere else,” he said. “We want to communicate, but there has been no communication from the cooperative.”

Capital News has reached out to the BCTFC for comment.

READ MORE: Growers and farmers protest at BC Tree Fruits Cooperative in Kelowna

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Gary Barnes

About the Author: Gary Barnes

Journalist and broadcaster for three decades.
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