Canada: Okanagan apple growers not so co-operative

A poor crop for Ontario Apple Growers may be the reason many Okanagan Fruit Growers are shipping their apples east, but according to Gary Schieck, CEO at the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-Operative, it goes against the rules.

The Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-Operative operates on what is known as an Evergreen Contract where members sign a one year contract and if they choose not to cancel the contract after the one year term is up, then it renews the following year.

"All growers within the co-op have a consistent contract, the choice of either a full service contract or a shipping contract which would only apply to soft fruit," says Gary Schieck, CEO of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative.

Schieck notes they are aware that some growers have sold apples to a local outlet who in turn has been shipping them to Ontario, he says growers in Ontario did experience severe weather this year resulting in a very poor crop which has created a one time opportunity.

"With apples, growers don't have a choice because they fall under a full service contract and our contract reads that you have to ship all the fruit that you have interest in to the packing house," says Schieck.

Schieck also says that they, as management, have to try and enforce the contract that's in place, both parties are obligated and bound to honour the contract and when they don't it hurts their fellow growers who end up eating the overhead cost.

Local fruit grower and President of BC Fruit Growers Association in Kelowna, Kirpal Boparai, maintains many growers within the co-op are frustrated with management, the Board of Directors and the way things are run.

"I think they (members) have lost confidence in the co-op and the Board," says Boparai. "They don't think the management is doing their job as it should have been done."

Co-op management says they will be investigating the matter further and anticipate the fruit losses to be minimal.

"We're doing our own internal investigation here and trying to put that number together," says Schieck.


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