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Dukhia places priority on unity

Turbulent year for grower association results in need for fence- mending with OTFC.

By Judie Steeves A

s the new president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association, Vernon grower Jeet Dukhia says a major priority will be improving relations between the 124-year-old grower lobby group and the main co- operative packinghouse.

Elected vice-president at last year’s BCFGA convention, Dukhia stepped into the top position with the resignation of the president and Kelowna grower Kirpal Boparai last December.

Boparai was ejected from the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative last summer for not fulfilling the terms of his contract.

Dukhia defeated Kelowna grower and a former BCFGA vice-president Fred Steele in a vote at January’s convention where newcomer Bhupinder Dhaliwal of Oliver was elected vice-president.

“It’s important to have a strong organization that’s united and inclusive,” Dukhia told members. Delegates also heard from new OTFC chief executive officer Alan Tyabji at the convention, as he presented an update on changes being made to the organization.

That will include an amalgamation of the co-op and B.C. Tree Fruits in order to achieve $10 million in benefits when

10 Bhupinder Dhaliwal


Members of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association cast their ballots during elections at January’s BCFGA annual meeting in Penticton.

co-op properties are sold.

Expansion of the Oliver cherry line will reduce labour costs and save five cents a pound in packing costs, he said, while new defect-sorting technologies to be installed in the Winfield plant will result in an increase in the number of boxes of apples per bin. Opportunities to rent or lease unused co-op-owned facilities, such as to a large winery to store case goods, will increase revenue for the grower-owned co-op, he said. Tyabji agreed that the BCFGA and the co-op must work together to benefit all growers.

Jeet Dukhia Delegates

also approved a resolution to hold a member vote on

forming an Apple Research and Promotion Agency, in line with other apple-

producing provinces across the

country. A campaign to educate growers on the concept will be undertaken before the vote. In response to agriculture minister Norm Letnick’s advice that growers should get the data together to make a compelling argument to the energy minister that the Columbia River Treaty has hurt growers economically

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2013

(by providing cheap irrigation to open up vast tracts of land to orchards south of the border), delegates agreed to call on the province to share any increased revenues from a renegotiated treaty with affected commodity groups. The federal government was called on by delegates to fill vacant research positions and the province was requested to enable the Sterile Insect Release program to expand its role in area-wide insect control. The federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency was also asked to establish an Area of Low Pest Prevalence for apples in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap Valleys.

A call to reverse budget cuts made to grower support programs by senior government was another resolution approved by delegates.

Along with Letnick, Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan, house speaker and MLA for the south Okanagan, Bill Barisoff and natural resource operations minister and Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson were all in attendance at the convention, along with Dan Ashton, Mayor of Penticton.

Also elected by growers to the BCFGA executive were incumbents Denise MacDonald of Summerland representing Okanagan-Skaha; Nirmal Dhaliwal of Oliver representing the South Okanagan-Similkameen; Jora Dhaliwal of Kelowna for the Central region; Madeleine van Roechoudt of Lake Country for the north and Peter Simonsen of Naramata for the southern district. All were acclaimed. Incumbent Amarjit Lalli of Kelowna was elected over Asif Mohammed of Vernon to represent the northern district.

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