BC Tree Fruits members vote on board’s future after facilities controversy


The future of a co-op that helps more than 200 orchards in B.C.’s Okanagan and Similkameen valleys with things like fruit packing and marketing was up for debate on Tuesday.

Members of the BC Tree Fruits cooperative gathered in Peachland for a special meeting called because some orchardists are unhappy with the direction of the co-op.

None of the special resolutions, including those that could have unseated the current board, passed.

But those pushing for change believe they sent a clear message that many growers aren’t happy.

Among those who want to see a change at the co-op is orchardist Parminder Saini, who was at the meeting representing his mother who is a co-op member.

“All we were asking for from day one is transparency,” said Saini. “One of the biggest changes we would like to see is maybe some new members who join the board have maybe a better perspective. We have never seen a strategic plan.”

The meeting comes after the co-operative made some controversial choices regarding its facilities: shutting a packing location in the Central Okanagan and instead of building a new Central Okanagan space, upgrading an existing BC Tree Fruits location in the South Okanagan.

“I think everybody would like to see transparency and accuracy and clarity in how they came about these decisions,” said orchardist Surinder Gosal.

“The reality is I don’t think we need a new facility. I think we need new equipment. I think current inventory dictates that we don’t need a new facility.”

Among the issues voted on at Tuesday’s closed-door meeting was a resolution that would have removed the co-op’s current board. It required a two-thirds majority to pass and didn’t get the votes needed.

However, Gosal said the vote was incredibly close.

“The board (is) going to have to sit and talk and discuss and maybe possibly rethink the process that they’ve gone through. Clearly the growers are upset,” Gosal said.

The co-op’s president defended the level of transparency in the co-op’s decision making.

“We have had ongoing conversations with our members about the decision, keeping in mind we’ve got 217 voting members from all over the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys so there (are) different points of view,” said President Warren Sarafinchan.

The co-op said in a message to members the facilities decisions “were made to improve grower returns … while managing cooperative debt levels,” and the president stood by the facilities choices on Tuesday.

Asked if the vote on removing the board had sent a message that members want change, Sarafinchan said, “We constantly talk to our members about the various issues and things going on within the cooperative so going forward we are going to continue to do the same thing.”

&copy 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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