B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

A $5 million boost for Okanagan fruit growers

The Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund was announced to help update aging farming equipment, infrastructure

The province has unveiled a new $5 million fund to assist tree-fruit growers with replacing aging equipment and infrastructure, B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham announced today.

Speaking at the B.C. Tree Fruit Growers annual general meeting in Kelowna, Popham said apple, cherry and other tree fruit growers throughout the province will be able to access the $5-million Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund.

“This fund will help family-run orchards and the sector as a whole with advancements that make B.C. tree fruit more competitive in the marketplace,” said Popham. “The $5-million investment reflects this government’s commitment to partner with B.C. growers to help modernize their practices, and help them share their great-tasting apples, cherries and other fruits, with more customers here at home and around the world.”

Related: Minimum wage increase hampers Okanagan fruit growers

The fund will be open to tree fruit growers, producers, and processors to support three key areas of priority:

  • Research: cultivar, disease and pest research.
  • Marketing: export market opportunities and market development research.
  • Infrastructure: sector-based infrastructure modernization such as new equipment.

“This funding is so important to the future of our industry. We need help controlling new invasive pests like the brown marmorated stinkbug, and marketing is an area where we need to invest in new varieties,” said Fred Steele, outgoing president of the BC Fruit Growers’ Association.

“This funding will also help with our very successful replant program. This investment, at a time when we are challenged in the marketplace, will ensure that we continue to make progress that leads to a bright future for the tree fruit sector. The government is fulfilling its promise made during the election campaign.”

Related: Orchardists expand deer cull request

Portions of the fund can also be used to address any oversubscription of the B.C. government’s Tree Fruit Replant Program over the next four years. This year, the province provided an additional $300,000 in funding for the replant program, to meet the demand from tree fruit growers.

The B.C. government will be engaging with the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association and other partners to set up the fund and establish the process for awarding funding. It is anticipated the fund will be active for the next three to four years.

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