News Release Article from  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Governments of Canada and British Columbia Help Advance Tree Fruit Industry

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Kelowna, British Columbia, January 27, 2012 — British Columbia’s tree fruit growers will save on operating costs and continue to drive the economy thanks to support from the Governments of Canada and British Columbia to modernize the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative’s storage facility in Lake Country. Member of Parliament Ron Cannan (Kelowna – Lake Country), on behalf of federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae announced the investment today at the 123rd Annual General Meeting of the British Columbia Fruit Grower’s Association.

"Our Government’s top priority is creating jobs and economic growth and B.C.’s tree fruit industry plays an important role in keeping our economy strong," said MP Cannan. "Through this investment, hardworking tree fruit growers will have the tools they need to modernize their packing house, increase efficiencies, lower costs and grow their businesses."

"As the recently released final report from the Tree Fruit Working Group pointed out, modern packing houses will result in more efficient operations and better position B.C. apple growers to compete in domestic and international markets," said B.C. Agriculture Minister Don McRae. "The Province is committed to work with industry on the findings of the Tree Fruit Working Group to promote sustainability and profitability within the industry as a means to ensure British Columbians continue to have local and healthy foods on our tables, while also stimulating new investment and employment opportunities in our communities."

This investment of almost $2.7 million from the Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Initiative will help the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative (OTFC) modernize packinghouse controlled atmosphere storage facilities and enhance returns to growers. This investment is expected to reduce total operating costs by $340,000 annually.

Created in July 2008 through the amalgamation of four tree fruit packinghouses, the OTFC is the largest packinghouse operation in the Okanagan Valley and in Canada. It is a grower owned cooperative with over 700 members combining their talents to grow, pack, and ship over 3.5 million boxes of fruit each year.

"We are extremely grateful in receiving this funding which will really benefit our cooperative and B.C.’s tree fruit industry," said Gary Schieck, CEO of the Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative. "These dollars will allow us to leverage new technology in improving our controlled atmosphere storages at our Lake Country plant utilizing a more environmentally friendly, lower cost refrigeration process which will enhance fruit quality and yield to the market place, ultimately leading to increased returns to our growers. This improvement is part of a facility consolidation and technological shift our organization is undertaking."

In July 2010, Governments of Canada and B.C. together contributed $5 million to the Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Initiative. The federal funding investment is made through the Agricultural Flexibility Fund (AgriFlex), a five-year fund created to help the sector reduce costs of production, improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation, and respond to emerging opportunities and market challenges.

For more information on the B.C. Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Innovation Initiative, contact the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture at AGR.Minister@gov.bc.ca or visit http://www.gov.bc.ca/agri/.

For more information on the AgriFlexibilty Fund visit www.agr.gc.ca/agriflexibility.

For more information, media may contact:

Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
613-773-7972
1-866-345-7972

Sharon Dean
Communications Manager
BC Ministry of Agriculture
250-387-1674

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