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Cover Story Loss and opportunity


Restructuring has had a mixed impact on several aspects of the province’s tree fruit industry. By Susan McIver


fruit outlets is having an impact on individual employees, customers and growers. The changes are an attempt to


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reduce overhead costs by selling some packinghouse properties while increasing the efficiency of operation in the remaining facilities. Sandy McCarthy, sales manager of


the retail outlet of the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-operative receiving and storage facility in Penticton, will be out of a job at the end of October. McCarthy’s service to the fruit industry began 29 years ago when she was hired as a sales clerk at the packinghouse on Okanagan Lake near the old train station in Penticton. Two part-time employees at the Penticton outlet will be let go also. In contrast to employees working


in receiving and storage, those in the fruit outlets are not unionized, which means they are ineligible for relocation opportunities in other facilities should they exist. The general public only became


aware of the impending closure through a series of letters to the editor in the Penticton Herald from unhappy customers. “I don’t know how effective petitions are, but they have one onsite. If anyone knows of a better way to fight this closure, please let people know, and those who buy at the packinghouse, please, at least sign the petition,” wrote Julie Morrison of Penticton. In subsequent discussion, Morrison said


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ontinuing closures and reorganization of Okanagan Valley packinghouses and retail


SUSAN MCIVER


Billy Boerboom took advantage of retail opportunities created when the Summerland packinghouse closed in 2010.


she did not know of the fate of the petition only that it was no longer at the store. “It shouldn’t be closed. People


want to buy local B.C. fruit, not the U.S. fruit that is sold in so many grocery stores,” said Kiran Mohan while shopping at the Penticton outlet. The Penticton store ranks second


in size after the Kelowna fruit store. Chris Pollock, who handles media relations for B.C. Tree Fruits, e-mailed: “Because we are seeing a reduction in crop volume due to some growers selling their fruit to Washington State and weather damage, we continue to face pressure from growers to increase efficiencies at our facilities and to lower operating costs.” He continued, “With


Sandy McCarthy


the Penticton store specifically, a main factor in the decision to close the store is a direct result


British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013


of a change in regulations which require us to maintain full-time coverage by a Cold Storage Operator when the storage is running.” The apple line at the Kelowna packinghouse will not operate this year; however, the cherry and pear lines and the retail store are still operational. Gord Shandler, an experienced Summerland orchardist, has become so frustrated with the pace of change in the co-op and returns on fruit that he will begin selling his apples to a Washington State operation this fall. “I hope to make more money, of course, but it’s also a bit of a political statement I’m making,” Shandler said in a recent newspaper interview. Shandler, who consistently produces high-quality fruit, appreciates the Washington firm’s policy of payment based on the quality of apples produced by individual growers. “Here the apples are basically a


pooled commodity,” he said. Closure of the Summerland


packinghouse in 2010 affected 81


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