British Columbia apple growers will soon vote on a proposal to raise nearly $1.4 million (US) for apple promotion and research.

“The plan is to have in place a fund that all growers contribute to that could be accessed by marketers such as BC Tree Fruit and other brokers in order to do promotion work for the fruit crops in the Okanagan,” said Summerland apple grower Joe Sardinha, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association.

Research also is an important component of the plan, he said.

“The industry itself has had a tough time generating the dollars necessary to participate in horticultural research and there is certainly a lot of issues that need to be addressed,” he said Jan. 23.

The voting is expected to begin soon and continue through early March for British Columbia apple growers on a referendum for a Apple Research and Promotion Agency.

Supporters of the plan are briefing independent apple growers in the province about the details of the plan before the voting begins, he said.

“We want to explain to growers what we plan to achieve,” he said. “There is a lot of questions out there and we haven’t had a chance to talk to all of our stakeholders.”

The Okanagan Tree Fruit Cooperative handles about 85% of the apples in the Okanagan Valley, Sardinha said. BC Tree Fruits Ltd., Kelowna, British Columbia, is the marketing arm for the cooperative, he said.

The proposed agency is authorized by provincial law and will pass if at least 40% of registered growers vote, and if 65% of that number vote in favor of the research and promotion assessment. The governing body for the agency would include up to three apple growers, of which one will be an organic grower.

Sardinha said British Columbia and Nova Scotia are the only apple producing provinces that don’t have an industry-wide grower levy in place. Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick do, he said.

“We are the provinces that need to play catch before we ever entertain the idea of taking this thing to a national level,” he said.

Sardinha said the proposed group could bring the industry together, which has seen the rise of independent marketers after single-desk selling was disbanded in Canada several years ago.

“This is a way to unify the industry on some levels and get all individual to contribute a fair share to both research and marketing,” he said.