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Farmers protest outside of BC Tree Fruits office in Kelowna

Farmers fear shortfall after years of below-average yields
Protestors outside BC Tree Fruits office on Sexsmith Road in Kelowna Wednesday.

Okanagan farmers continue to press for change and better compensation.

About 30 demonstrators turned up at BC Tree Fruits Cooperative office on Sexsmith Road Wednesday morning.

"We're asking for accountability and we're not getting any of that. The cooperative has been really good in sending pictures of the work that's being done. But when it comes to actual numbers, we haven't received anything," said protest spokesperson Amarjit Singh.

Singh points to BC Tree Fruits selling property like the one just south of Kelowna International Airport.

A story in the Western Investor in April said the 87-acre property was sold for $9.85 million, $250,000 above the listed price of $9.6 million. In that case, the property sold for well over assessed value of just over $3 million.

Singh says farmers are questioning the assessed values on some properties.

"Our concern is that due diligence is not being done. A prime example, we had numbers presented to us regarding property evaluations. So I looked up the assessment of one of our properties. The value that they put down was for our property in Winfield was $8 million," Singh said.

"When I went on BC Assessment, it was $16 million dollars. So, that's very concerning."

Some of the farmers were also at a rally in Osoyoos on Tuesday where Singh says he had a good conversation with Premier David Eby.

"To help the farmers survive the programs need to be revamped. I had a great chance to talk to Premier Eby and he was very concerned, very conciliatory. We're hoping that the government is listening and our message is getting through with an election right around the corner."

Singh says farmers have experienced five consecutive years of below-average crops.

"The programs are not designed to handle five bad years, because it's based off of margins, and our margins are down so low that it will not trigger payments."

"B.C. has done a fantastic job in protecting the land with the ALR, but we have not protected the farmer," he continued. "That's what this is about. The last couple of years, we've been dealing with heat, we've been dealing with the freeze, there's a lot of dead trees out there."

"The tonnage of apples coming into the cooperative will be coming down. And when this whole process started, the budgets were based off of 67 million pounds. And last year, we only hit 54 million, and this year, will will be even less than that. Where are we going to make up that extra money?" Singh asked.