Orchardists to elect president

Vernon’s Jeet Dukhia and Kelowna’s Fred Steele seek the presidency of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association

It will be deja vu for Okanagan orchardists.

Just as they did last year, Vernon’s Jeet Dukhia and Kelowna’s Fred Steele will go head-to-head for the presidency of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association Saturday.

“We carried out a progressive agenda in the first term and we received $8.4 million over seven years for the replant program,” said Steele, who is currently president.

Steele says he is seeking a second term because he has a number of initiatives to pursue.

“There are things we can do in terms of infrastructure money from other levels of government,” he said, adding that an industry strategy will be developed and that will help broaden funding opportunities.

“Agriculture has relied on talking to the federal and provincial agriculture ministers and there are also opportunities under Western diversification, the industry ministry and the trade ministry.”

Steele is calling for increased exports of fruit.

“We have to expand in different horizons and we’re looking at that,” he said.

Dukhia was president of the BCFGA prior to losing to Steele at the 2014 convention.

“I had a lot of issues started and I would like to complete them,” said Dukhia referring to insurance protection.

Dukhia also insists that he established a good working relationship with senior federal and provincial officials that benefitted the industry.

“They understand me and where I want to take the industry,” he said, adding that there needs to be more focus on growing varieties that will bolster exports.

“I’d like to see every location (vacant land) back with orchards so we can make the industry profitable and attract young orchardists.”

Dukhia says the BCFGA needs to lobby government more on fruit from other countries being imported into Canada.

“A lot of growers are not happy with (price) returns.”

The BCFGA’s 126th annual convention runs Friday and Saturday in Penticton.

The agenda includes consideration of resolutions, industry updates and reports on the environment, food safety, crop protection and labour. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Kirsten Hannam, with the University of B.C., on building resilient orchard systems using integrated management practises.