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A Fruitful Century

End of the Court Case, 1985

A fruitful century

Claims made by “anonymous” independent growers cost the B.C.F.G.A and its members hundreds of thousands of dollars in mounting a defence in the Combines Investigation Act case. During the time that the independents wanted to return the industry to cut-throat competition, they were simultaneously demanding that the organized sector of the industry share its scarce storage facilities with them. When this demand was refused, the independents accused the B.C.F.G.A. of contravening the Combines Investigation Act.

In the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the B.C.F.G.A. and a number of packing houses were found not guilty of conspiring to unduly limit facilities for storing or dealing in tree fruit in the Okanagan Valley. Charges against various industry officials were also stayed. Judge Davies, who found the B.C.F.G.A. and the packing houses innocent, wrote in his decision on June 28, 1985:

I have concluded that anyone who became an independent did so by choice. They had to elect to be out and in doing so, be aware of the fact that they could sell their fruit in the fresh market or they would have to obtain storage and packing facilities. It is clear that the industry agreement [Industry Contracts with the packing houses] does not stifle competition. Independents sold fruit during that period. . . .

This unique integrated industry [the B.C.F.G.A. organization] was effectively owned and controlled by the growers. They settled upon an agreement that they felt was required for the efficient operation of the industry. I do not consider that such an agreement has harmed the public interest. . . .

I find the accused not guilty.

(Judge davies, on the verdict of the B.C.F.G.A. and packing houses)

It was with some relief that the B.C.F.G.A. and the packing houses heard the judge’s decision. The maximum penalties, had they been found guilty, were five years in jail, or $1 million in fines, or both.

Vignette: Okanagan Similkameen Cooperative Growers Association by Jim Kemes (General Manager, OSC)

Okanagan Similkameen Cooperative Growers Association, or “OSC” as it is known in the fruit industry, is an amalgamation of several grower groups and covers an area which includes the farm lands of Kaleden, Keremeos, Cawston, Osoyoos, and Oliver.

The earliest established member of the group is the Oliver Coop packinghouse which is still on its original location. It started in 1923 with a membership of twenty-five growers taking over the Oliver Producers Association. The Coop built its first warehouse in 1924 and continued to grow . through mergers until 1982, the date of the last merger with Haynes Coop.

In the wake of the MacPhee royal commission on the B.C. fruit industry in 1958, studies done on Oliver and Osoyoos packinghouses identified the advantages and benefits of an amalgamation of the tonnage. Oliver-Osoyoos Cooperative was born to form the base for the next twenty years of mergers.

MacLean and Fitzpatrick’s Oliver and Osoyoos plants were sold to the cooperative. George Maybe and Southern Coop Growers also joined. From the north, Kaleden Growers also phased out their operation and came to use the modern facilities of the Oliver-Osoyoos Coop.

In 1980-81 Keremeos Coop Growers and the Similkameen United Growers jointly came over to form the Okanagan Similkameen Coop Growers Association. And in 1982 the Haynes Coop and B.C. Fruit Shippers completed the mergers.

Today OSC had the ability to serve growers from three major facilities located at Keremeos, Osoyoos, and Oliver.