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Tree Fruit Company, has been overcome and that has already accomplished some efficiencies. The head offices of the BCFGA, OTFC and staff and management of the BCTF are now all in one building, facilitating better communication between them, for instance, and the BCTF is now part of the OTFC.  Quality: production of consistently high-quality products that fully meet customers’ expectations was recommended in the plan.


Specifically, it recommended that by 2012, 75 per cent of industry production should be in the highest grade categories, and that quality not vary by more than five per cent year to year, with claims under 1.75 per cent for apples and six per cent for cherries.


Sardinha admits more grower commitment is needed to achieve this goal. “The packinghouse can’t take marginal fruit and make a profit from it for growers. It all depends on what happens in the orchard. “Today there are only four or five major customers/buyers and they’re all calling for higher standards all the time.


“If you typically grow small sizes of fruit, you’re going to lose out. Even how fruit is picked and when growers decide to pick, is vital.” As recommended, the packinghouse has upgraded equipment and technology and adopted pooling practices that reward picking at optimal maturity, as well as adopting a revised grading system focussing on maturity. On-farm, there has been increased use of automation such as picking platforms, as recommended. The replant program was extended for three years, instead of the recommended five, due to economic constraints.  Markets: the strategy was to increase demand for B.C. tree fruits and prices, by moving away from the commodity market and focusing on niche markets. At least 20 per cent of revenues was to come from specialty varieties, specialty packs and organics by 2012.


Although no Tree Fruit Marketing


Council has been formed as recommended, the activities are happening without it, including generic promotional programs and varied packaging; food safety programs, both on-farm and in the packinghouses, are being


implemented, and more growers are moving to organic production. As well, the industry has now submitted the first application in Canada for this area to be designated an Area of Low Pest Prevalence, meaning there is an area-wide program to reduce the use of pesticides, noted Sardinha. He noted that levies on new varieties generates money for specific promotions too.  People: there’s been no success at initiating a worker-housing program for seasonal workers, and local housing bylaws still vary from one jurisdiction to another, but Sardinha notes things have been calm on the labour front for the past year or so.


There is still concern by municipalities that seasonal housing


could be used to increase the density on farm properties by rental of accommodation all year round instead of just during the season, if housing isn’t designed to be temporary, he noted.  New Varieties: the strategic plan recommended establishment of a coordinating body involving all levels and bodies within the industry to oversee commercialization of new varieties.


The PICO board has been expanded to include more representatives, and PICO has carried out or is actively working on most of the recommendations of the strategic plan, including developing more partnerships to develop new cultivars, accessing other varieties and expanding test acreage for trials of new varieties.


It has been successful in receiving $3.2 million toward research into new cultivars and how best to grow them, and for sensory evaluations. That work now involves growers from across the country, including as representatives on the board.


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