June 30, 2015 - 8:00 PM
OKANAGAN – The general manager of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association says they are about a month away from knowing if Okanagan apples will be bound for one of the largest markets in the world.
Glen Lucas says he had hoped they would have the answers to whether or not local apples will be a good fit for India by the end of this month, but a recent change in offices for the growers association has delayed the process.
“We’re still doing our due diligence, which is checking into the tariff levels for each country and setting our priorities in terms of export market,” he says. The next step, according to him, is to draft a list of countries they think are of most interest to send to federal trade offices.
“We’ll be asking them to help us fill that in,” he says. “Once we get that data back we can look at it and see who is at the top of the list. We expect that could be India.”
India, with a population of 1.3 billion, could be a massive market – one that the Okanagan could not hope to satisfy any time soon.
“It could take 20 years,” Lucas says. “Apple farming is long term and we’d have to look at increasing our production.”
Despite the obstacles, Lucas says the association is optimistic it will happen – he’s just not sure when.
“It’s more ripe for making an agreement than it was with sending cherries to China and it seems like the barriers are, politically, being cleared out of the way. That’s why it’s so encouraging.”
One of the biggest proponents of the project is Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh. She got the idea while at a trade meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and B.C. Premier Christy Clark earlier this year.
“We were discussing trade opportunities and I was thinking how could we benefit from that? There is an opportunity to benefit the region, especially Kelowna,” she says.
Singh, whose family is originally from India, says she approached Clark casually with the idea of exporting Okanagan apples to India.
“I wanted to make sure that any trade that happens doesn’t just benefit the Fraser Valley and I mentioned the idea of exporting our apples. She looked at me and said what a great idea it was.”
Singh says while India does grow its own apples, especially in the mountainous north, they don’t grow nearly enough to satisfy demand. And the quality isn’t as good.
“I’m told they’re not very sweet,” she says. “We grow the best fruit and I think ours would be a niche market. There’s big money to be made here.”
Lucas says they are also looking at exporting Okanagan cherries to Japan, but discussions are still in the early stage.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015