Jeet Dukhia has made history.
He is the first president from Vernon in the 124 years of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association.
“I feel very good about this but I represent the entire Okanagan,” said Dukhia, who has 42 acres in the BX.
“I feel pretty positive about the industry. I am very optimistic when I see all of the new plantings.”
Dukhia, who was acting president, was elected to the top job during the BCFGA’s convention in Penticton Saturday.
Among his priorities are to ensure ongoing senior government support for the industry, particularly over 1964’s Columbia River Treaty.
“The treaty did lots of damage for the Okanagan Valley,” said Dukhia.
“Washington State used our water and they have 100,000 acres in orchards. We have to get some compensation from the government.”
The BCFGA is also working with other commodity groups and the government to open up new markets for B.C. cherries in China.
“It’s a huge market and more cherry plantings are coming into production all of the time,” said Dukhia.
However, he admits that some challenges must be overcome before exports begin.
“They don’t recognize our methods of testing for pesticides and we are working with the Chinese government on this,” he said.
Another issue is successorship and encouraging young people to get into the tree fruit industry and operate family farms.
“We want to see families carry on from generation to generation,” said Dukhia.
Dukhia, who was vice-president, became interim president in December after Kirpal Boparai resigned from the top post.
Boparai was kicked out of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative because he did not conform to contract terms.
Despite a year of turmoil, Dukhia doesn’t believe there are any concerns or hard feelings among growers.
“Nobody brought it to the convention,” he said.
“I will work closely with the packinghouses and will have monthly meetings with the packinghouses.”