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Decision time for Ambrosia levy

Voting under way by registered growers on proposed five-year extension, at reduced rate.

By Judie Steeves A

mbrosia apples give their growers probably the highest returns of any variety of apple grown in B.C., but the value of the brand is reliant on them continuing to pay a levy per pound for extra promotion to keep opening new markets and selling people on how good it is.

That’s the message from the New Tree Fruit Varieties Development Council, which currently collects a levy of .025 cents a pound on Ambrosias. It is asking growers to vote on continuing a levy, but one that would be reduced to .02 cents a pound, for the next five years. President Bruce Currie says “Ambrosia pays well because we’ve had the money to promote it and open up new markets for it.”

He notes that only Honeycrisp pays more per pound, but it often doesn’t pack out as well, so Ambrosias still pay more money for most growers. However, as the patents on Ambrosia come to an end, more and more growers will begin to plant the variety, so it will be even more important that new markets for the variety are opened up and committed to buying it from B.C., before there’s a lot more of the variety available.

During the next five years, Ambrosia acreage is expected to double, and without extra promotion, the price could drop and everyone will lose out, he warns.

In Canada, the patent protection ends this year, while in the U.S. it ends in June 2017. That means


Ambrosia will be open for propagation then, and for planting in 2019. The first crops wouldn’t be coming off for several years after that. And that opens a window for current B.C. Ambrosia growers to capitalize on their limited quantities of high-quality fruit and open up new markets now so they have a toehold before additional acreage begins producing and fruit heads to market. “For the next five years, they won’t have to worry if the levy is extended,” comments Currie, adding, “There are still lots of markets that don’t know about the variety, so we have the chance to go further afield now to promote it. However, getting into

markets that are further away is more costly, so we need approval to extend the levy.”

He is enthusiastic about the benefits of Ambrosia to growers and consumers alike, and calls it a “gift from Nature; truly fruit of the Gods.”

He says the funds collected from growers are managed very judiciously, and there’s very little that goes to administration.

Some of the funds go to improvements in the field and research, such as on storage factors to improve its flavour after long-term storage.

Matching funds from government are also attracted by the grower levy, so more money is available for the work than just what is paid by growers. At the same time, the NTFVDC is actively looking for Ambrosia growers who have not paid their levy and is using every legal method to collect it from them,

noted Currie.

The levy is to be collected at the first receiver, generally a packinghouse, but if fruit is sold off the farm, the farmer is expected to remit it to the council.

“Everyone benefits from the promotional efforts paid for by that levy, so it’s only fair that everyone selling Ambrosias pays it,” notes Currie.

The voting period on the levy is Feb. 24 to Mar. 24, 2016.

Growers must be registered to vote and they may vote by mail. To verify you’re on the list, contact the Ambrosia Council at: If 60 per cent of those who vote are in favour of the plan, it will pass and will begin with the 2016 crop. The ministry of agriculture will provide a returning officer to facilitate the vote and if it is successful, the agriculture minister will make the final decision on approval.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016 9

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