BC cherries on world stage

Okanagan cherries are out on the world's stage – and with additional funding announced by the federal government Tuesday, growers are looking to export more of the delicious fruit.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti was in Kelowna Tuesday on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture to announce $241,000 in funding to market B.C. cherries in new countries.

In 2014, the local cherry market was opened to China, and just last year, local farms began exporting to Japan. Sukhpaul Bal, president of the BC Cherry Association, said they are next looking at selling to South Korea.

“The agri-marketing funding really allows us to explore the new markets and get to the new markets to promote the B.C. cherry industry,” Bal said, adding representatives have been attending trade shows in Berlin and Hong Kong for the past several years, thanks in part to the program.

The new funding is also being matched by the BC Cherry Association for a total of $480,000.

“The whole agri-marketing initiative is meant to help get our products out into new markets, and into profitable markets,” Lametti said. “The Okanagan is a world leader in cherries and we're going to try and build on that because it's one of our strengths.”

Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr said Canada is the only G7 country with trade agreements with every other G7 country.

“That's fairly recent in the last year or two, and that will 'bear fruit' as we move forward,” Fuhr said. “Our fiscal relationships with other countries matter more now than ever, as far as diversifying.

“I think we've learned a few things over the last couple years that our biggest customer and our biggest trade relationship, which is still important, isn't the only game in town. We need to make sure we diversify, so new markets for anything, including cherries, is good news all around.”

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