Fruit sector harvests funds

The provincial government will provide $8.4 million over seven years so growers can replace low-value orchards

Okanagan orchardists are preparing for the future after a significant investment.

The provincial government will provide $8.4 million over seven years so growers can replace low-value orchards with fruit varieties consumers are demanding.

“We are hoping to continue to support the tree fruit sector as it sells its product locally and around the world,” Norm Letnick, agriculture minister and Lake Country MLA, told The Morning Star Friday.

“They understand that they must continue to improve their offering. It’s important to transition to high-quality varieties.”

The $8.4 million comes on top of $2 million in 2012 for a three-year replant initiative.

Between April 1, 2015 and the 2021 season, growers can apply for the new program.

It is estimated that more than 600 hectares of orchards will be replanted over the seven years providing 2,600 jobs each year for the Okanagan.

“Growers are genuinely excited about the announcement of the replant program as the government set a goal of a sustainable, long-term replant program, and this promise is delivered,” said Fred Steele, B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association president.

“The program matches the long-term nature of growing apples and cherries, as well as soft fruits, and it is not only appreciated, it is essential to our future.”

When asked if $8.4 million is what the BCFGA requested for replant, Letnick said, “That’s a significant amount of money but like anyone else, I’m sure they would like more. This is what we could afford.”

Letnick says he is quite confident in the future of the tree fruit sector and its role economically in the Okanagan.

B.C. growers produced Canada’s second-largest tree fruit crop in 2013, generating $103 million in farm cash receipts.

The Okanagan exported $41.7 million in cherries in 2013, with the top markets in Hong Kong, the U.S., Taiwan and China.

Last year, B.C. exported $19.1 million in apples and the top three markets were the U.S., Mexico and Taiwan.