B.C. fruit replant plan to allow swaps to different fruits

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A British Columbia provincial program that backs fruit growers to pull up and replant orchards to higher-value varieties will soon allow them to replant to different fruits altogether.

Speaking to the B.C. Fruit Growers Association on Saturday in Penticton, Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick announced plans to expand the province’s $2 million replant program.

Ministry staff, Letnick said, will now consult with the BCFGA to develop guidelines and criteria for an expanded plan which he expects to see posted next month.

The current program "supports growers who want to take advantage of the marketplace’s demand for high-value apples and other tree fruits, and encourages growers who are planning to switch to higher value varieties to make the change."

In expanding the program, he said, "my objective is still the same — to promote the growth and production of high-value, high-quality B.C. fruit, and to develop a stronger, more sustainable tree fruit sector that results in growers earning more dollars."

The announcement follows last week’s pledge from the B.C. and federal governments to back several grower association and private-sector projects in the fruit industry.

Cawston Cold Storage is slated to get over $106,000 toward new technology for "greater efficiencies in the movement of product in and out of cold storage" as a way to extend the B.C. organic apple marketing season, through improved post-harvest storage quality.

Coral Beach Farms in Lake Country will get over $35,000 toward a new software program that will automate the sorting of stemless cherries. Such a program, the governments said, could help the sector get a share of higher-value export markets that pay a premium for stemmed cherries.

The Jind Fruit Co., meanwhile, will get just over $26,000 to improve cold-storage air quality and conditions at its Osoyoos packing house, while the Okanagan Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association will get over $21,000 for two spotted wing drosophila larvae management projects.

Also, the BCFGA’s Research and Development Test Orchard will get $19,200 toward development of quality standards that all cherry-packing organizations can use in domestic and export markets.