Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-op shakes up executive

Board of directors terminates CEO and operations manager

After four seasons of mediocre returns, a local fruit grower wasn’t surprised by a shake up in the top ranks of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative last week.

Summerland grower Joe Sardinha thinks that given the frustration level in the industry, the termination of two top managers at the OTFC may have been inevitable.

Last Thursday, Rob Dawson, a Kelowna grower and president of the co-op’s board of directors, notified OTFC CEO Gary Schiek that the board had approved a non-confidence motion and his employment was terminated. Operations manager Rod Vint was terminated at the same time.

“That’s not to say Gary Schieck and Rod Vint weren’t committed to their positions,” said Sardinha, who thinks that grower frustration fuelled an outcry for a change in direction.

That change in direction comes in the from of Alan Tyabji, who took over as CEO immediately.

“He is no stranger to the industry,” said Sardinha. “He has a good solid background in co-op management and he is no stranger to B.C. Tree Fruits as well.”

Tyabji had been manager of the Okanagan Similkameen Co-operative, which was amalgamated with three other valley tree fruit co-ops in 2008 to form the OTFC, which he led for a short time as CEO before leaving to pursue other interests. Tyabji will also be CEO of B.C. Tree Fruits, which is part of the OTFC.

“Whether or not these changes result in a better picture remains to be seen, but this year the market outlook is very positive, so we won’t see anything dramatic in terms of new management and what improvements are going to be made in that regard this year,” said Sardinha. “Alan has also said that this year is a bright spot and the true test of the changes that he wants to make is going to come next year and subsequent years”

While the current market is setting itself up to be a good one, the pendulum may swing the opposite way next  year. As Sardinha points out, you can’t count on frosts two years in a row to damage apple crops in Ontario, Quebec and the U.S.

“We are certainly not getting anyone that is green in terms of learning the ropes, so that bodes well,” said Sardinha. “As a grower I wish to thank Gary Schieck and Rod Vint for their dedication and time to the industry and certain wish them all the best. I have no ill feelings whatsoever to the management we had and certainly look forward to seeing if perhaps, things can improve with Allan Tyabji at the helm.”