BC Tree Fruits plans to build a so-called “super plant” near the Kelowna International Airport have been scuttled.
BC Tree Fruits purchased land in the area of Old Vernon Road and Scotty Creek Road and was previously working through the planning process for a new state-of-the-art facility with quick access to the airport.
Those plans have now been shelved.
The group announced Wednesday that they will shift operations to their Oliver facility and close the packing house in the Kelowna/Lake Country area in the fall of 2022. 95 workers have received layoff notices, although they have been told they can apply for any internal posting at other facilities.
“Until recently, management and the board collectively believed that a new build in Kelowna was the best course of action. However, the sharp rise in construction costs and interest rates along with changes in the industry made the plan for a new build far too risky," says Warren Sarafinchan, president and CEO.
“As a grower-owned cooperative, we place growers first in everything we do. The board of directors and management are confident that the expansion of our Oliver packing facility will give us the capacity and efficiencies needed to service our customers while delivering solid income back to our growers. We are taking the fiscally responsible path to modernization, which allows us to re-invest funds toward our growers and diversification at the same time."
When asked about the fate of the land originally slated for the new build in Kelowna, Sarafinchan replied, “we are currently visioning many options for that location that will diversify our business while benefiting our grower base. BC Tree Fruits Cooperative will continue to have roots in Kelowna well into the future”.
BC Tree Fruits has significant real estate holdings, like the former packinghouse property that was sold to the Mission Group for $23.75 million last year.
The news release from BC Tree Fruits indicates significant investments will be made in the Oliver facility. The cooperative will continue to serve growers across the Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston areas through the the expanded Oliver packing facility along with satellite receiving and storage sites throughout the valleys the news release states.
BC Tree Fruits Cooperative is comprised of over 270 local grower families who produce a variety of tree fruit commodities including apples, cherries, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, prunes, plums and table grapes.
“The Okanagan tree fruit industry has been faced with many challenges over the last number of years," said Andre Scheepers, chair of the board of directors for the cooperative.
“While the cost of farm inputs continues to climb, weather events over the last three seasons have put significant pressure on all growers. As a result, the industry has seen losses of fruit volume across all commodities. After many months of investigation and deliberation, the board of directors and management have decided that this is the best facility investment plan for the cooperative to continue building a sustainable future for our growers”.