The tree fruit industry has had a long and distinguished past. It has also navigated troubled waters.
Some people say, well maybe it’s time to phase it out. If that happened the Okanagan Valley would suffer greatly. Most people are not aware of the connection they have to the industries well being. The industry generates nearly a billion dollars in economic activity annually.
The apple industry is experiencing economic hard times that is true. Weather and a few other factors have contributed to the problem, but these issues are only part of the problem. There are concerns with what is being produced for the market and there is an alleged crisis of leadership as well.
There has been a governance study of BC Tree Fruits itself and the findings placed before CO-OP members for consideration and adoption of changes. While I have not seen the entire report I can say the recommendations are hard medicine brought on by past alleged failures. Though the recommendations are in some cases a hard pill to swallow if these measures are not adopted it could create a crisis of confidence in the operation itself, from what I have seen.
The recommendations include mandatory program attendance to improve horticulture practices and raise quality standards. In addition the report calls for stricter eligibility rules for Board Members. In addition the report recommends the election of two outside independent directors. There needs to be education and development programs for Board Members.
There are other house keeping measures that would be prudent if adopted, and could pose potential serious problems if the recommendations are ignored. As someone who has been around the industry for sometime I believe the CO-OP is not only an integral part of the industry it has been the cornerstone of stability. My understanding is the report is more than fifty pages. Having not seen those pages I will not speculate on what they might contain.
It is no secret however this BC institution has been plagued by division in the past half decade and as an entity in some respects has not kept pace with the changing world.
Personally I do not subscribe to the failure of adequate returns to be the product of weather, or the Americans dumping into our market. There has been quality issues. Size and variety issues and a defined quality and sizing standard implemented and enforced by those in charge in the past.
There are a number of high quality growers expressing frustration with the current situation. The only way to ensure stability is to recognize the short comings and address the issues head on. Failure to do so could see consequences that could trigger a crisis for the marketing and financial backbone of the industry.
What I have seen of the report it is extremely well written, it is to the point and it addresses issues that have been whispered about – but never addressed in such a direct manner. If these measures are not dealt with and the CO-OP as an institution loses its relevance, the food chain buyer will be allowed to feast on lost revenue to the farmer.
In my opinion if growers ignore the recommendations and refuse to change they might do so at their peril.