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Apple agency concept not buried yet
Despite the plan failing in a vote, the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association is not giving up on the idea of an industry-funded Apple Research and Promotion Agency.
“We aren’t anywhere near developing a new proposal, but I think what we’re saying is the concept is alive,” said BCFGA general manager Glen Lucas.
The aim of the proposed agency was to fund marketing and research for the apple industry to help improve profitability. It would have been funded by growers through a levy of two-tenths of a cent per pound of apples produced.
Growers narrowly agreed to the creation of the agency by a 135-133 vote in February, but the initiative needed 65 per cent approval to pass.
Lucas said the BCFGA is taking the affirmative vote to mean it should continue working to implement the agency.
He said future efforts will be focused on explaining how the levy, estimated to raise about $316,000 yearly in B.C, would unlock a matching — but more lucrative — charge on imported apples.
“We need to keep letting growers know that by not passing this they’re (foregoing) $1 million in levies on imported apples. We need to get that message out,” he said.
Naramata orchardist Peter Simonsen, who produces about one million pounds of apples annually and would have been levied $2,000, said he was disappointed with the result.
“It would have made growers money, but they just couldn’t see it,” said Simonsen, also a member of the BCFGA executive.
“And I would sort of blame myself for not explaining it better. There were a lot of what-ifs and, to be kind, I’ll say the growers rejected the what-ifs.”
B.C. Agriculture Minister Pat Pimm said in a statement the government “respects the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association’s choice to not establish a provincial apple council.”
“The B.C. government will continue to support B.C. tree fruit growers’ efforts to increase their competitiveness and profitability,” Pimm said.
The ministry was in support of the agency and its staff had done some work with the BCFGA to explain the regulatory process required to establish it.
According to a briefing note prepared for Pimm in August 2013, the B.C. tree fruit industry shrunk from about 20,000 acres planted in the early 1990s to 14,000 by last summer. Over that same timespan, the fruit production area in Washington State increased from 17,000 to 232,500 acres.
Besides lower costs, Washington State growers also enjoy unfettered access to the Canadian markets, the note said, which represents an important challenge to B.C. growers.