Fruit growers clash at meeting

New board elected for Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative

It was a fractious meeting that saw hundreds of orchardists gather in Peachland from around the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys last week to turf out two of three incumbents on the board of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative and replace them with growers calling for changes.

Exactly what changes they wish to make remains to be seen because in their three-minute talks prior to election, most were not specific. However, there were some shrill voices raised during the business discussions at the five-hour meeting and a lot of finger pointing.

The board elected Rob Dawson, of Cawston, as interim president, until a special meeting set for Nov. 9.

Ron Vollo, of Summerland, was re-elected to the 10-member board, while Darshan Jassar, of Penticton, unseated incumbent Claude Moreira. Nirmal Dhaliwal and Jack Machial, both of Oliver, were also elected to the board.

Growers complained that they are not making a living in the tree fruit industry, and some suggested the co-operative should take lower quality fruit, rather than diverting it to be processed, which pays just a few cents a pound.

“You’re grading us out of business,” claimed Kelowna grower Brian Witzke, to which outgoing director Jim Elliot responded that customers demand high quality or they’ll buy their fruit from other producers.

Growers also learned about plans for modernizing the packinghouse infrastructure and plans for a new CanadaGap certification program for the tree fruit industry.