© Guardian photo
A major apple orchard operation to serve the European market was unveiled in southern Kings County recently with officials, from left, Gurmant Grewell, Sheila Copps, Jolie Patkai and Amarjeet Jatana. The group hopes to start producing 40 million pounds a year in P.E.I. within the next few years.
MONTAGUE — If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, just think what a billion might do.
Canadian Nectar Products is planning to put more polish on the P.E.I. fruit industry after announcing plans to produce a billion plus pieces of fruit annually for the European and Asian markets in the next few years.
“That’s a lot of fruit and with such great soil and climate here we see only expansion in the years ahead,’’ said Amarjeet Jatana, the chief grower with the company that has recently purchased and planted a 158-acre site in Alliston.
The company, working with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick growers as well, intends to produce the high volumes of fruit for the 500 million population market in Europe and Asia.
“It’s perfectly logical to grow in eastern Canada and send huge volumes to Europe,’’ he said, noting the P.E.I. production will total about 40 million pounds a year once in full swing.
While the pending European free trade agreement will benefit the project with the removal of a nine per cent duty Jatana says the major orchard effort would still go ahead anyway based on sheer numbers.
“We (will) have free trade with Europe, a nine per cent duty abolished, our dollar is down, and in ten days we are there.”
And the company has some high profile partners. Former Liberal MP Sheila Copps and Conservative MP Gurmant Grewell of B.C. were on the Island recently to help celebrate the announcement.
Canadian Nectar Products has purchased the farm of Julius and Jolie Patkai near Murray River to create its first orchard. The company says the sandy soil of eastern P.E.I. heavily used in the 1980s to late 1990s by the former tobacco industry is perfect for fruit and offers a longer growing season (seven more days) than other parts of the province.
The operation will not require extensive water resources or irrigation needs. Officials said only private investors are involved and there is no government funding.
“It’s only going to add to the Garden of the Gulf,’’ said Copps. “Now it will be garden of the Persian Gulf as well.”
The group expects to expand into berries as well and even pears.
“There’s no reason we couldn’t see expansion up to 1,000 acres,’’ said Jatana who has been growing fruit for the past 30 years.
The company also says it welcomes partnering farmers who may wish to contribute in the production of the staggering volumes planned.
Combined with apples from N.B. and N.S, the company estimates the P.E.I. crop would be worth about $40 million a year to the Maritime region and create hundreds of job in picking, packing and shipping.
“We are planting scab resistant hybrid tress to reduce sprays and focus on a more environmentally friendly orchard,’’ said Gurmant who was already thinking about apple farming when he visited the province 10 years ago.