Growers from across the Okanagan gathered in the Ramada hotel parking lot in Kelowna to voice their concerns with BCTF (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

Growers from across the Okanagan gathered in the Ramada hotel parking lot in Kelowna to voice their concerns with BCTF (Jacqueline Gelineau/Capital News)

BC Tree Fruit board and growers clash over closure of Winfield processing plant

The board of directors chose to update and move processing to the Oliver plant

The recent decision to close the Winfield fruit processing facility and to renovate the Oliver plant has prompted some local growers to call for a special general meeting with the board of BC Tree Fruits Cooperative (BCTF) on Nov. 22.

At the general meeting, the members plan to call for a vote on four key areas. They are calling for the removal of current board members, as well as halting the sale of real estate and any investments made at the Oliver facility. Members also want to revoke all rules regarding the governance of the Tree Fruits board of directors, which was implemented in October 2020.

“When they make such a big decision it should be a general house meeting, not just the directors… The growers should have a say in it,” said Gurjit Pabla, a farmer who has been working with BC Tree Fruits, formerly Vernon Fruit Union, for the past 45 years.

READ MORE: Farmers protest BC Tree Fruits surprise facility move from Kelowna to Oliver

President and chief executive officer at BC Tree Fruits Cooperative Warren Sarafinchan said, that BCTF simply could not afford to keep both processing facilities operational.

Sarafinchan explained that both locations required renovations but the Oliver facility was already using the equipment required to process delicate fruits like peaches. He also said that the cost to operate is higher in Winfield.

Growers like Pabla have expressed concern over hauling produce to the Oliver location will be more costly for farmers around Kelowna.

READ MORE: BC Tree Fruits CEO defends moving plant from Kelowna to Oliver

Mike Mitchell, an apple grower from the Central Okanagan said that he has already been bringing the bulk of his yield to Oliver to be processed, claiming the Winfield location is rough on fruit.

“There will be no change to my daily routine,” said Mitchell.

Sarafinchan said that the benefits of the move outweigh the “nominal” increase in costs for some farmers.

He encourages members to attend the upcoming meeting to learn about the reasons behind the board’s decisions and to vote.


@Rangers_mom
Jacqueline.Gelineau@kelownacapnews.com

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