An online forum tonight will discuss a proposal to form an apple marketing commission, similar to what exists for vegetables and cranberries, to improve grower returns.
A survey of 21 growers earlier this year by Vancouver consulting firm Ference & Co. for the New Tree Fruit Varieties Development Council, found that 81% were in favour of a marketing commission to ensure market stability versus government regulation or the status quo.
Packers and one major retailer also expressed support for the idea, but they underscored that maintaining fruit quality is essential to the success of any marketing commission.
The reports suggests that the proposed commission 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.
Ference & Co. is no stranger to the tree fruit sector, having completed several earlier studies for the industry, including a development strategy in 2007. That report suggested the establishment of a marketing council to address returns.
The idea of a marketing order to stabilize isn’t new. When an anti-dumping order against Red Delicious apples from Washington expired in the 1990s, a proposal for an international marketing order was put forth.
However, it failed to take hold. While low returns were an issue, most growers expected marginal growers to exit the sector – and those marginal growers were always someone else. Instead, many marginal growers hung on, hoping for a turnaround.
The consolidation of the four cooperative packing houses in 2008 and the rise of independent packers created structural change but still didn’t resolve the issues of poor quality and poor pricing.
Governance changes at BC Tree Fruits Co-operative have helped improve grower returns. With the disbanding of the New Tree Fruit Varieties Development Council, originally set up to oversee the marketing of Ambrosia, an opportunity exists to rethink marketing.
With growers continuing to wrestle with low returns that have prompted dozens to exit the industry in recent years, the long-awaited shakeout may be here.
Growers will discuss the potential for a new marketing commission to set the stage for what comes next on October 20 at 6:30 pm.