The province released 19 recommendations last week that outline a vision for stabilizing BC’s troubled tree fruit sector, the culmination of a nine-month process launched in February at the annual convention of the BC Fruit Growers Association.
“BCFGA is supportive and observe that the government recommendations have taken account of difficult times in the apple sector as well as climate impacts over the last three years in the cherry sector,” says BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas. “The input and dedication of the steering committee members and the grower and organization input is very much appreciated.”
The recommendations fall into 15 groupings, including leadership, governance and direction; labour supply and housing challenges; extensions services; marketing, sales and the power of retailers; increased use of innovation and technology; and addressing the impact of climate change.
The top recommendation is the creation of a single agency to represent the entire tree fruit sector within the BC Agriculture Council and to government. The province says the agency’s governance should include both industry representatives and government-recommended independent members.
In parallel with this, the BC Fruit Growers Association would be “realigned” to focus on lobbying, while yet another organization would be created to represent apple growers “at the same level as cherries and grapes.”
BC agriculture minister Lana Popham says the change is needed because the industry – which includes upwards of 500 growers – continues to struggle despite having received $67 million in assistance from the province since 2017.
The recommendations are the fruit of 30 consultation sessions with more than 165 individuals. The feedback was reviewed by an advisory committee that included representatives from BCFGA, the BC Cherry Association, New Tree Fruit Variety Development Council, Sterile Insect Release Program, BC Grape Growers’ Association and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The committee was headed by Georgina Beyers, director of the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries’ industry development branch, and provincial tree fruit specialist Adrian Arts.
The recommendations now go to industry for consideration, pending implementation. BCFGA expects to discuss the report this Thursday.
The province says it “will be actively involved … alongside industry” to ensure implementation of the 19 recommendations.
“Goals will be set, and achievement progress will be monitored on a consistent, and specified basis,” it says.