BC Tree Fruits growers assembly moved on-line to keep away from protest – Kelowna Information
A planned protest by farmers prior to a BC Tree Fruits growers meeting Thursday in Kelowna has resulted in that meeting being moved online.
On Aug. 17, BC Tree Fruits announced that it will be closing its Kelowna/Lake Country packinghouse and shelving plans for a “super-plant” in the area.
The group announced they will shift operations to their Oliver facility in fall 2022.
Growers had planned on protesting the decision prior to Thursday evening’s grower meeting at the Kelowna Ramada Hotel.
BC Tree Fruits CEO and president Warren Sarafinchan said in a news release Thursday afternoon that growers meeting will now be held on Zoom, due to “security concerns” that were raised by the Ramada “due to potentially disruptive protest activity.”
“Both the board and management are extremely disappointed to lose the opportunity to meet live and in person with our grower base and to engage in important and constructive dialogue about the changes to our organization,” Sarafinchan said.
A total of 95 workers at the Lake Country/Kelowna packinghouse have received layoff notices as a result of the move, although they have been offered positions at the Oliver facility.
Mike Mitchell, the owner of B&T Orchards in Lake Country, says he was shocked when he heard about the move. He and other cooperative members say they were not consulted.
“The growers need to be heard. It is the growers’ cooperative and all options need to be weighed. The growers are upset that consolation wasn’t given to them. They were kind of taken by surprise.”
“The growers haven’t been given a clear picture as to why other than the cost saving,” Michell added.
Mitchell said the northern half of the Okanagan Valley produces about 70 per cent of the co-op’s apple tonnage.
“The growers’ fruit is going to run down south… and transportation. You can’t transport apples when it is 20 below and then all of sudden the highway in Summerland gets shut down and that food is frozen. The biggest concern for the growers is the distance the fruit is going to have to travel. The consumer wants a perfect apple. Every time an apple gets a little bruised it costs the growers money,” he said.
The growers’ meeting was scheduled to be held at 6:30 p.m.
“We got the notice on the door that they cancelled,” said the director of sales and marketing with the Ramada Hotel, Maxine DeHart.
BC Tree Fruits Cooperative is comprised of over 270 local grower families who produce a variety of tree fruit commodities including apples, cherries, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, prunes, plums and table grapes.