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Checking up on the ‘pillars’

BCFGA’s strategic plan is showing positive results, despite economic slump, but there’s a way to go yet.

By Judie Steeves A

lthough current economic conditions have slowed some aspects of it, implementation of much of the tree fruit industry’s strategic plan, adopted in early 2007, has been successful, figures Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association. There is now a need to fast-track downsizing of infrastructure to match the reduced size of the industry, but land prices are down, so it’s not the best time to sell properties the industry owns, he noted.

“We were blind-sided by the economic situation,” he commented. “Growers are despairing, but we’ve actually made tremendous progress in the past three years.”

The strategic plan, developed by consultants independent of industry and after consultation with the public and industry, included five “pillars” or broad goals for a successful future for the industry: Structure, Quality Production, Markets, People and New Varieties. Along with identifying goals, the plan detailed steps that ought to be taken to reach them, so the industry could grow and be profitable. “We’re not moving fast enough because our infrastructure costs are too high. The per-box rate of packing costs has gone up. Production has shrunk, which has outpaced the gains we’ve made in efficiency. “We have to reduce the costs in line with our reduced production (and) lease out some facilities that


aren’t being used because mothballing plants involves continued costs in utilities and taxes, with no income to pay for them,” Sardinha explained.

Perhaps some should be used for joint ventures or value-added product using unsalable fruit instead of shipping culls to Sun-Rype, he speculated. Sun-Rype is returning less than growers’ overhead, so we actually pay for culls twice, now, he noted.

Even fancy grade apples are getting hard to sell in today’s market. “Perhaps we have to open our own stores to sell that fruit. There’s lots of good fruit that never makes it to market, resulting in lost revenue to growers.” Because there are very few wholesalers left, with consolidation on the retail and wholesale side—and


B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president Joe Sardinha says more effort will be needed to cut costs and improve productivity.

lots of fruit—they all demand extra fancy apples in just four sizes and reject all the rest, he said.

WHAT’S BEEN ACHIEVED  Structure: the plan

recommended fully-integrating the industry; merging the different packinghouse co-operatives, the marketing arm, B.C. Tree Fruits, along with the Plant Improvement Company (PICO), which is owned by

the BCFGA, and the BCFGA. Sardinha noted that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the political arm of the BCFGA to integrate with the business end of the industry, but otherwise there is better communication now; and it’s a similar situation with PICO. The biggest hurdle, integration of the packinghouses as the Okanagan

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2010

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