Flexibility the key to BCTF efficiency: Swales By Judie Steeves

operations based on what’s happening in the field.


t’s been nearly a year since the board of the B.C. Tree Fruits Co-op hired Stan Swales as chief executive officer, replacing Alan Tyabji.

Swales is no stranger to the Okanagan tree fruit industry, having grown up in Penticton and serving 20 years with the Vernon Fruit Union after graduating as a horticulturist from UBC. He moved into an operations role and when the manager of Growers’ Supply retired, he took on that position for 10 years, before going to BASF for a year.

He admits he wanted to be “busier,” so when the BCTF board asked if he would head up the co-op, he agreed. “I felt operations needed to be grounded in the field,” he explains, adding, it’s important to him that there be flexibility in

we’re trying to figure out how we can get ahead of the curve.”

The co-op has just finalized the sale of its property in Oyama and portions of the Naramata property, although sale of one parcel is still in the negotiating stage.

The co-op board is also investigating whether there is value in looking at new land and facilities to replace other aging infrastructure. It could be cheaper than the cost of upgrading the older facilities, and some of those are on valuable inner-city land, which could be sold while property values are high. The estimate is it would cost $95 million to replace all facilities and many are older and in need of updating. There is still consideration of moving the head offices from downtown Kelowna and consolidating them with another BCTF facility, adds Swales. It’s a proposal that has been considered before.

All efficiencies and cost-savings are being considered, he says, in order to streamline operations and maximize grower returns.

Swales doesn’t expect there will be an overall reduction in staff numbers as a result of the closures. And, in fact, he figures it will be better for some, who now work shifts in both the southern communities, instead of just going in to work each shift at the same facility. In 2008, the remaining four co-

14 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall-Winter 2017

Reviewing progress with the co-op, which is the result of a merger of four valley co- ops nine years ago, Swales notes that although field service continue s to improve—across the industry, yields are not yet as high as they should be.

“Growers tend to keep growing the same

way. They deliver on hope instead of market reality,” he comments.

The co-op must also continue to replace aging facilities and make efficiencies, he notes.

Stan Swales

As far as marketing is concerned, he is pleased with the good support B.C. fruit gets from retailers in Western Canada. He’s also pleased with the decision to create a grower-owned cidery. It is doing so well that it’s already turning a profit, well before expected, and it’s ready to expand.

operative packinghouses in the valley selling through B.C. Tree Fruits amalgamated with BCTF to form a single co-op called the BCTF Co-op.

However, in 1957, there were 36 co- operative societies, 20 independent shippers and five grower-shippers selling through BCTF.

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