The closure of BC Tree Fruit Co-operative’s packing lines in Kelowna and Winfield has opened the doors to a new partnership.
While the co-op intends to consolidate packing operations for all fruit in Oliver, the closure of its Kelowna operations has opened the door to a partnership with Sandhu Fruit Farm in Summerland.
Sandhu recently installed a new optical sorter and fully automated packing line which the supplier, Italy-based Unitec, describes as a game-changer for cherry packers.
“The new Unitec technology reduces production costs significantly and adds value to your cherries,” it says, calling out the labour cost savings, improved efficiency and reliability.
The partnership gives BC Tree Fruits access to the latest technology without bearing the full capital cost of the equipment. Its cherry line in Kelowna was due for an upgrade, having been installed in 2014 and now outdated.
“Cooperative growers who grow export-quality cherries will have even more opportunity to maximize their returns through shared volume and technology which will enable greater access to markets by air and ocean,” the co-op said in a statement announcing the partnership.
The equipment will also be more productive for Sandhu, which has grown its business over the past 14 years to include markets across North America as well as in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
“The opportunity for both organizations to utilize their collective strengths to maximize returns for cherry growers is exciting,” says Sandhu CEO Chanpreet Sandhu.
BCTF president and CEO Warren Sarafinchan says the marketing connections of Sandhu will serve co-op members well.
“[Our] brand is extremely strong in Asia and this opportunity will maximize returns for our export growers,” Sarafinchan says. “We look forward to a strong season as we pool our collective knowledge and resources to bring high quality BC cherries to the world.”
Securing greater sales in high-value export markets is a key objective for the industry in the wake of the tree fruit industry stabilization initiative coordinated by the province. While expanding access to high-value markets for apples is the primary goal, all inroads are welcome as the industry faces increasing competition for market share on all fronts.