Growers will meet in Kelowna on April 12 for another round of discussion to consider the apple marketing commission proposed as a successor organization to the New Tree Fruit Varieties Development Council, which will wind up operations at the end of March 2023.
While most of the feedback received from growers to date has been negative, the April 12 meeting will be a chance for growers to meet in-person to hear more and to voice their concerns. The event will also be streamed online.
The meeting follows an information session October 20 on release of a report by consultants Ference & Co., which drafted the proposal for the commission. It found that 81% of growers favoured a marketing commission to ensure market stability versus government regulation or accepting the status quo.
However, the idea has been a hot topic at industry meetings in the intervening months. It cropped up at the council’s annual general meeting in December, and also at the BC Fruit Growers Association meeting February 24.
BCFGA members approved a motion to facilitate discussions “on establishing an Apple Marketing Commission or any other proposal that will establish market discipline and orderly marketing by BC apple packers and wholesalers.”
Among the concerns growers have is that few details are available yet regarding the exact structure of a marketing commission, which would have an annual budget of $1.75 million funded by a levy on growers (estimated to be less than a cent a pound), packer licence fees and marketing grants from government.
Growers are also concerned that there are no guarantees with respect to pricing.
“The biggest issue I see with the apple commission is that there’s no guarantee in price,” said Amarjit Singh Lalli, a grower in Kelowna. “[Growers] are looking for a consistent return every single year, so that it’s not one good year, five bad years, one good year.”
But Madeleine van Roechoudt, a grower in Lake Country and a NVDC director, urged growers to keep an open mind.
“It’s an initial proposal, it’s not a final proposal. If this was to move forward there would need to be a business plan made,” she said. “We’re still at a dialogue stage, if this even does go forward.”
The dialogue will continue at the April 12 meeting in Kelowna.