(Dec. 19) OTTAWA — The Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. is banking on an agreement with the Ontario Produce Marketing Association — a relationship that officials hope will help draw some interest in the corporation.

The terms of the transaction: The Toronto-based marketing association is to help the DRC with membership recruitment and communications in Ontario.

A similar agreement with the Quebec Produce Marketing Association, Anjou, was enacted in July. This partnership will start Jan. 1.

“This is a model that isn’t new,” said Stephen Whitney, DRC president. “It’s not just investing in Ontario or investing in Quebec. What we’re doing is investing on behalf of the entire membership who trade in the Quebec and Ontario markets.”

The DRC, which settles disagreements between produce companies trading internationally, now has about 1,220 members. Since its inception in 2000, membership has increased about 5% annually.

And company officials want that trend to continue.

“We’ve got lots of members in Quebec and Ontario,” Whitney said. “But what we’re trying to do is always make sure that we’re ever-present.

“There are always opportunities, and we want to capture those opportunities to attract more members as we evolve.”

The Ontario Produce Marketing Association will be part of the evolution, as it will review DRC membership applications, recruit and use newsletters to help educate members of the fresh produce industry, said Ian MacKenzie, executive vice president of the association.

“We do have a pretty good rapport with the industry, a pretty good communications network,” MacKenzie said. “We’ll just further what the DRC is already doing.”

Whitney said the DRC agreements with the Ontario association and the Quebec association could be long-term.

Most of the DRC’s membership consists of produce companies from Canada, while U.S., Mexico, Chile and four other countries also are represented. At the end of October, the DRC had handled 400 dispute cases, of which 55 required arbitration.

Meanwhile, in its December newsletter, the DRC board announced plans to increase annual membership fees by $100 (U.S.) to $635, effective Feb. 1.