Apple growers state case to minister  


Black Press

Growers state case to minister

Published: March 16, 2010 6:00 PM
Okanagan orchardists have outlined a game plan to try and escape financial disaster.

During a meeting last week with Agriculture Minister Steve Thomson, the B.C. Fruit Growers demanded Victoria provide apple growers with $10 million and initiate a claim to a provincial/federal insurance program because of extraordinary conditions.

“We laid out the case of where the industry is at,” said Joe Sardinha, BCFGA president.

The average price for all apple varieties is 13 cents a pound while the cost of production is 22.5 cents.

“While there is the AgriStability program, it will only cover 15 to 30 per cent of the grower losses for the 2009 crop,” said Sardinha. “And from 2008, there are growers who still haven’t received anything from the program.”

Sardinha says some growers are already unable to cover their expenses.

“It will be difficult for growers to find the resources to grow this year’s crop which will just compound the problem.”

While it’s possible the Ministry of Agriculture will apply to the provincial/federal AgriRecovery program for assistance, it’s unknown whether the $10 million will materialize.

“The minister made it clear that things are very challenging. His ministry received a $5 million reduction in the budget and next year, they’re proposing a $7 million cut,” said Sardinha. “It doesn’t bode well, but the question to ask is: is the industry important enough in the Okanagan for the government to support?”

Sardinha and Thomson also spoke about long-term initiatives that could be taken to improve the plight of orchardists including possible trade action against counties that dump apples in Canada and establishing a marketing board to retrieve the cost of production.

The BCFGA has asked Thomson to respond to its requests within a week to 10 days.

“They have several things in front of them to consider and we’ll have to wait and see what happens,” said Sardinha.