Fruit growers to choose new executive

Orchardists will have plenty to talk about when they attend the 124th annual convention of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association next month.

Orchardists will have plenty to talk about when they attend the 124th annual convention of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association next month.

The organization, which had a change of leadership and other challenges in 2012, will meet Jan. 19 at the Lakeside Resort in Penticton.

Members will be considering the establishment of a national apple research and promotion agency. Also on the agenda is a resolution to try to secure a place at the bargaining table when the Columbia River Treaty is renewed in 2014.

B.C. Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick is scheduled to address the convention at 11:30 a.m.

The convention will open with a two-hour business session for dealing with financial statements, budget, industry organization reports and a special resolution to modernize the BCFGA constitution.

Reports will be received from Alan Tyabji, CEO of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative; the executive; and BCFGA committees. There will also be reports from the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation (PICO) and the association’s research and development orchard. Committees looking after water, environment and crop protection issues will give reports and put forward resolutions.

A panel will give industry updates on the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Horticulture Council, B.C. Agriculture Council and benchmarking studies.

The theme of the convention is Growing Forward 2, a focus on innovation, international marketing and competitiveness.

The day will wrap up with nominations, candidate speeches, balloting and election of the president, vice-president and other executive members.

At the convention last January, BCFGA elected Kirpal Boparai of Kelowna as its president. Incumbent president Joe Sardinha of Summerland did not run for election, opting to retire from the executive after 11 years, seven of them in the top post. Elected vice-president was Vernon grower Jeet Dukhia, a newcomer to the long-time lobby group’s executive. In late summer this year, the main co-op packinghouse, the Okanagan Tree Fruit Co-operative, expelled Boparai for failing to live up to the terms of his contract, and shipping his apples to an independent packer instead of the co-op he was a member of. In October, at the annual general meeting of that co-op, one of the 300 or so growers attending proposed a resolution calling on the co-op to stop checking off BCFGA dues from members until the BCFGA removed Boparai from the top post and it was approved. However, the co-op executive declined to deal with that resolution, and neither organization is required to deal with it. Boparai only attended two of the four regional grower meetings held throughout the valley in November, but when nominated for re-election to the BCFGA board, he declined, and in December he announced his intent to resign from the top post.

Vice-president Dukhia took over until the January 2013 convention. He is one of the nominees for president.