New BC Tree Fruits CEO spent last 18 months changing culture

Tree Fruits charts new path

Warren Sarafinchan has been busy changing the culture at BC Tree Fruits for the last year and a half, and now the Okanagan institution is ready to move ahead on its new path in an effort to get more money back to its growers.

“As an industry, ultimately we need to improve grower profitability,” the CEO said in a press release. “If we don’t, there simply won’t be local fruit to buy in the future.”

Sarafinchan said a new level of trust had to be established among growers, the board of directors and management along with a more modern way of doing business. BC Tree Fruits enlisted the help of the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries to help improve its governance protocols.

BC Tree Fruits was established in the Okanagan Valley since 1936, and it represents 350 growers and 600 regular and seasonal employees. It is Western Canada’s largest tree fruits packing house.

“We have accelerated the process of right sizing the co-operative assets by selling under-utilized properties, we have made capital investments in equipment to improve efficiencies, and we are relentless in our pursuit to reduce costs,” Sarafinchan said, adding improved communication and more transparency among all stakeholders was another one of his goals since taking over.

Part of Tree Fruits’ overhaul included the sale of its downtown office for $7.5 million. Staff from that building relocated to the company’s Winfield packing house or another office within one of its storage facilities.

As for improving grower profitability, Sarafinchan believes Tree Fruits has already shown it is on the right path.

“We believe we have delivered very competitive summer fruit grower pricing for the 2020 crop and our first instalment of apple payments back to the growers saw a significant increase over last year,” he said.

“That said, the co-operative must continue to work with growers and industry stakeholders to increase returns over the cost of production to ensure our growers have sustainable businesses into the future.”

More Kelowna News