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Okanagan fruit growers get boost from province

Darrell Block shows off the first cherries of the season at the Rai Produce fruit stand on Highway 3 near Osoyoos recently. Warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine have south Okanagan crops ripening several weeks ahead of schedule.  - Mark Brett/Penticton Western News
Darrell Block shows off the first cherries of the season at the Rai Produce fruit stand on Highway 3 near Osoyoos recently. Warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine have south Okanagan crops ripening several weeks ahead of schedule.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Penticton Western News

Fruit growers are getting more assistance from the B.C. government to the tune of $1 million over the duration of the tree fruit replant program.

"The replant program is critical to the renewal and growth of our industry, especially for cherry and apple production and the popularity of the program has caught everyone by surprise. The new funding announced (Thursday) will help accelerate renewal and this is very positive news for growers," said Fred Steele, president, BC Fruit Growers' Association.

The new funding will support B.C.'s tree fruit growers who have made the decision to replant their orchards with high-value, high-quality fruit varieties. There are nearly 6,000 tree fruit orchards in the province with the majority located in the Okanagan Valley.

"We heard loud and clear from growers that the replant program is a huge success for replanting low-value orchards with high-demand varieties like Ambrosia and Honeycrisp apples and late-season cherries. This funding commitment will provide even more farming families with the chance to earn a higher income as they continue to support their local community," said Penticton MLA Dan Ashton.

For the 2016-17 season, it is estimated that $300,000 of the new funding will be available and this will assist more than two dozen additional projects with 122 additional acres being replanted. In total, the province's tree fruit replant program is committing $9.4 million that will see at least 1,600 acres replanted by 2021, providing more than 2,600 jobs each year for the Okanagan.

B.C. growers produced Canada's second largest tree crop in 2014, including more than 126,000 tonnes of apples, sweet cherries, peaches, pears, plums, prunes, nectarines and apricots.

"Given the high interest in the replant program, the B.C. government wanted to ensure there was adequate funding to meet the demand. I want to congratulate the Okanagan tree-fruit sector on receiving the new funding and I wish them continued success as they reposition their orchards to high-value and high-quality fruit," said Linda Larson, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen.

The application intake for the 2016-17 season was so successful it was significantly oversubscribed and has now closed. The new funding applications for the 2017-18 season will be available on the Ministry of

Agriculture website this fall. Additional information is available here http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/agriculture-seafood/programs/treefruit-replant-program.

 

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