Country Life in BC

May 8, 2019

BC Tree Fruits prepares to relocate

by PETER MITHAM

BC Tree Fruits Co-operative found a new executive team, and soon it will have a new home.

The co-op announced this week that it expects to close on the purchase of 85 acres in the Ellison area of Kelowna by the end of May. The transaction will occur in tandem with the sale of its property in Penticton.

“This purchase signals our commitment to the industry, our growers, our staff and the valley, and will give us the ability to compete on a global scale moving forward,” said co-op CEO Todd McMyn in a statement.

McMyn was appointed CEO at the beginning of April, an appointment announced alongside that of new CFO Ross Dwhytie. The two senior positions had been vacant since November.

During the search for new executives, co-op president Jeet Dukhia told Country Life in BC that a number of restructuring initiatives were underway in order to secure money for an automated plant in the north Okanagan. The reorganization, Dukhia added, could include the purchase of a new property on Kelowna’s outskirts. A decision was expected by this summer.

“We should be on the outskirts of the city where land is cheap,” he said at the time. “We are looking to the next 50 years.”

This month’s land purchase at 3330 Old Vernon Road should fit the bill.

“[It] will see a consolidation of all of the cooperative’s northern facilities,” the co-op says. “[It] will house state-of-the-art apple, cherry, pear and soft fruit packing line(s) as well as office space and the cider operations and a ‘destination’ cidery.”

A timeline for the project hasn’t been set. Government approvals for construction have yet to be obtained for the site, which may require an exclusion from the Agricultural Land Reserve. A co-op representative was not immediately available to confirm this, but the purchase announcement said the co-op “will be working closely with all levels of government” to make the facility a reality.

Cost is also a factor. A competitiveness study last year said government funding could be difficult to secure. Six years ago, renewal of co-op facilities was estimated at $40 million. Construction cost increases in the intervening years will likely make the cost of the current project much higher.

With annual sales of close to $130 million, the grower-owned co-op has been diversifying its business in recent years. While it has long supplied inputs to orchardists through its subsidiary, Growers Supply Co., it also produces Broken Ladder hard cider. Most recently, in April, it launched a new line of fruit-based alcoholic beverages under the M.O. Fruitsecco brand. [BC Tree Fruits image]