Local cherry growers who travelled to China last week to support federal officials in talks with their counterparts on opening up trade to B.C. cherries returned with optimism that the doors may begin to open.
Lake Country grower David Geen said they met and lobbied importers who would benefit if trade to China for B.C. cherries opened up, and those Chinese business people will now likely put pressure on their government.
As well, the local growers provided a sounding board for staff from Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, who were in negotiations with their Chinese counterparts to try and come to a trade agreement.
This was the first time the B.C. cherry industry has collaborated to send a delegation from industry to China, and Geen felt it was lacking up to now, and was helpful for them to be there this time.
He made a point of saying how impressed he was with the expertise of staff from both the ministry of agriculture and CFIA officials.
He said he returned home feeling encouraged by the experience, and he said the CFIA officials also seemed to feel that way.
The delegation was paid for by members of the Okanagan-Kootenay Cherry Growers Association, following a meeting with the co-op and cherry growers who are not members of the OKCG, in which they all agreed they needed to work together to form a B.C. Cherry Council.
It would tackle trade issues around the world, in order to open new markets to what is a burgeoning industry in the Okanagan.
OKCGA president Christine Dendy estimated the industry here is worth $45 million at market, and said there are in the neighbourhood of 450 growers here, but no trade association to which they all belong.
Growers would all need to vote on forming a council, which would operate by levying a fee per acre of cherries grown, in order to support trade development, education and research.
Dendy said the plan is to hold that vote this spring.