BC Tree Fruits’ plans to build a so-called “superplant” near Kelowna International Airport have been scuttled.
BC Tree Fruits purchased land near Old Vernon Road and Scotty Creek Road and previously worked on 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 move operations to their Oliver facility and close the packhouse in the Kelowna/Lake Country area in the fall of 2022.
“Until recently, management and management believed that a new building in Kelowna was the best way forward. However, the sharp rise in construction costs and interest rates, along with changes in the industry, made the new construction plan far too risky,” said Warren Sarafinchan, president and CEO.
“As a growers’ cooperative, we put growers first in everything we do. The board of directors and management are confident that the expansion of our Oliver packaging facility will give us the capacity and efficiency needed to serve our customers while delivering solid revenues to our growers. We are taking the fiscally responsible path to modernization, allowing us to reinvest money in our growers and diversify at the same time.”
When asked about the fate of the land originally planned for the new construction in Kelowna, Sarafinchan replied: “We currently have many options for that location that will diversify our business while benefiting our grower base. BC Tree Fruits Cooperative will remain rooted in Kelowna well into the future.”
BC Tree Fruits has significant real estate holdings, such as the former warehouse that was sold to the Mission Group last year for $23.75 million.
The BC Tree Fruits news release indicates that significant investments will be made in the Oliver facility. The cooperative will continue to serve growers in the Okanagan, Similkameen and Creston regions through its expanded Oliver packaging facility and satellite receiving and storage locations in the valleys, the press release said.
BC Tree Fruits Cooperative is made up of more than 270 local grower families who produce a variety of tree fruit products including apples, cherries, pears, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, plums and table grapes.
“The Okanagan tree fruit industry has faced many challenges in recent years,” said Andre Scheepers, chairman of the cooperative’s board of directors.
“While the cost of agricultural inputs continues to rise, the weather conditions of the past three seasons have put a lot of pressure on all growers. As a result, the sector has seen loss of fruit volume across all raw materials. After many months of research and consultation, the board of directors has and management decided that this is the best facility investment plan for the cooperative to continue building a sustainable future for our growers.”