Fruit growers to elect president

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association can recycle ballots for president for the third year in a row.

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association can recycle ballots for president for the third year in a row.

Jeet Dukhia, a Vernon orchardist, will go up against incumbent Fred Steele, from Kelowna, during the BCFGA’s convention Jan. 29 and 30.

“I want to enhance the replant program,” said Dukhia, a former president who lost to Steele in 2014 and 2015.

“We have to include new land in the replant program.”

Dukhia insists there is a need for senior government funding so new varieties of fruit trees can be planted on land currently not being used as a way of expanding export markets overseas, including in Asia.

“We need to increase the level of production,” he said.

“There has been lots of success with cherries and  we need to do more with apples.”

Another issue for Dukhia is crop insurance.

“Early and late cherries are not covered,” he said, adding that new growers often find it difficult to access insurance.

Steele agrees there is a need to plant trees on land not in production as well as to target trees more than five years old.

“We’re trying to work with the federal initiatives program to see all older trees replaced,” he said, adding that markets will open up with new fruit varieties and that will bolster the Okanagan’s economy.

“We’re creating an industry, new jobs.”

Steele also wants the BCFGA to focus on agri-tourism.

“We want to see a set of rules that’s fair to everyone,” he said.

“Getting this done needs good relationships with all levels of government. I would like to see closer ties with municipalities.”

The only person nominated for vice-president is Pinder Dhaliwal from Oliver.

The three positions for northern executive director are being sought by Sukhdev Goraya, Asif Mohammed, Surjit Nagra, Tony Nijjar and Tahir Raza. Nominated for the three southern executive director seats are Ravinder Bains, Sukhdeep Brar and Peter Simonsen.

The annual general meeting takes place at the Ramada Hotel in Kelowna.

The BCFGA represents 500 commercial orchardists.