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British Columbia apple growers seek stability

Apple industry is currently in decline in BC, so grower look for solutions.


BC apples.

A series of 6 meetings attended by an estimated 50% of all apple growers is helping to inform a new, reinvigorated apple sector in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. “The attendance indicates a very high level of engagement,” said Derek Sturko, Chair of the project management committee which includes successful, representative BC apple producers and packers.

Growers considered the industry’s current circumstances, the reasons for its recent decline, and were consulted on three options: status quo, a marketing association, and a marketing commission. The status quo was expected to continue the current decline in acreage (from 8,500 to 6,700 acres over the past 5 years), so was not considered a viable option by growers.

Of the two remaining alternatives, a possible apple marketing commission was the focus of discussions and questions posed by growers. A report will be issued to the project management committee on the outcomes of the meetings. An independent consultant, Purdeep Sangha of Sangha Worldwide, facilitated the sessions and will prepare the summary report. Robin Smith of Foodwest Resources Inc developed and presented business plans and budgets to inform growers’ understanding of the pros, cons, and costs of a possible apple marketing association or apple marketing commission.

“As a neutral facilitator, I was very pleased with the attendance, engagement, and thoughtful discourse on the alternatives,” said Sangha. Smith noted that “Growers focussed on the three main activities proposed in the Apple Marketing Commission business plan: collecting data and making it available to all industry participants, establishing and monitoring quality standards so that there is a level playing field between packers as well as protection of BC’s reputation for high quality apples, and finally a ‘generic’ promotion program that goes beyond individual packinghouse labels but at the same time supports and integrates with those labels”.

The sessions were held January 8-10, 2024, from Vernon to Cawston and included a virtual session, with total attendance of 211 growers, including several growers who pack their own fruit. Growers were invited to continue providing input and questions through a website on the initiative: Next steps for the project include the project management committee reviewing the analysis of the meeting and making a recommendation on how to proceed.

“Returning stability and even growth to our iconic apple sector is important to food security and the economy,” noted Peter Simonsen, President of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. The association sponsored the facilitated meetings through a grant provided by the Tree Fruit Industry Stabilization Fund. The BCFGA remained neutral in conducting the project, but Peter Simonsen, president of the BCFGA, concurred with growers at the sessions by summarizing “We need solutions, and we need them now before it is too late”.

The BCFGA is appealing to Canadian consumers to help by asking for fresh, high-quality BC apples at their favourite food retailers.

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