September 10, 2018 5:47 pm
Updated: September 10, 2018 9:04 pm

Osoyoos fruit growers to be compensated after packing plant closure

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The B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative says it will compensate its Osoyoos members for transporting their product to Oliver after it shut down the aging packing plant to consolidate operations.

The 80-year-old Osoyoos facility required costly upgrades so the board of directors decided to shut it down and expand operations 20 kilometres north in Oliver.

Growers told Global Okanagan they did not have the time or resources to transport their fruit to Oliver during the busy picking season and requested a drop-off location in Osoyoos.

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Chris Pollock, marketing manager with the B.C. Tree Fruits Cooperative, said the board has decided against that, and opted to compensate the growers instead for at least two years.

He said the details are still being ironed out.

“We will look to reimburse Osoyoos growers to help minimize the extra time and distance that is required to bring the fruit up here,” he said.

The cooperative has invested in a new multi-million dollar state-of-the-art production line that’s said to revolutionize the fruit sorting process.

A device– called an optical sorter– uses cameras to automatically sort and grade fruit by size, colour and defect.

“We run anywhere from 600 to 1800 pieces of fruit per minute underneath this camera box,” said Katie Walker, operations grading tech.

Photographs are taken of each fruit and pictures are displayed on a computer screen that highlights the imperfections.

“It allows us to pick up things such as bruises,” she said.

The price-tag for this high tech tool? More than $3 million.

“I hope that our growers see what we are doing, that we are reinvesting into facilities like this with a state-of-the art- camera that nobody else in the valley has,” Pollock said.

He said it will give south Okanagan growers a competitive advantage over other fruit growing regions like Washington State.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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