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The Grower Plebiscite on One-Desk Selling

Since the conflict among the apple growers was so heated, the provincial government decided to follow the Hudson Report recommendation to hold a grower plebiscite on the issue of compulsory one-desk selling. Some of the renegade growers suggested that a vote for one-desk selling was a vote against road-side fruit stands. That was simply not the case. Adding this to many of the dissidents' other statements, meant that the plebiscite was being conducted amid a mass of contradictory opinions as to whether mandatory central selling should be kept.

British Columbia was the only province in Canada with compulsory one-desk selling. It had developed for two main reasons. Firstly, as noted in the Hudson Report, it is the distance from markets which made one-desk selling essential to the successful operation of a commercial fruit industry in B.C. Through the pooling system, all growers absorbed the costs of transportation to destinations further away, and the expenses of controlled atmosphere and traditional cold storage necessary for fruit sales over an extended period. They also received the benefits of selling to nearby areas. Without one-desk selling, all of the crop would not be sold, and growers would undercut each other in order to gain access to local markets, such as Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton.

The second compelling reason to keep onedesk selling was that food distribution in British Columbia is highly organized with only a few major wholesalers controlling most of it. The result is a very competitive situation for tree fruit growers. Growers in B.C. needed to have onedesk selling for the marketing power it gave them in selling their perishable commodity.

The advantages of one-desk selling were obvious to most growers. Thus, when the government-sponsored plebiscite was conducted in early December sixty-two per cent of growers voted in favour of retaining mandatory one-desk selling; thirty-eight per cent voted against it. It was a victory but not as decisive a one as had been hoped. These results, coupled with the lack of enforcement capabilities by the B.C. Tree Fruit Board, led to the end of an era. In 1974, the B.C.F.G.A. Executive decided upon a startling reversal of policy and practice: the end of compulsory one-desk selling for tree fruit sales made within the province of British Columbia.

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