Sheila Copps sees Prince Edward Island as apple capital of the world

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on May 9, 2014
Premier Robert Ghiz welcomes former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps to the P.E.I. legislature on Thursday. Ghiz’s first job was working for Copps in Ottawa. The former MP is on P.E.I. this week to help a national company set up an apple orchard in eastern P.E.I.
Guardian photo by Dave Stewart

The former deputy prime minister of Canada says she wants to make P.E.I. the apple capital of the world.

Sheila Copps, who served as a member of Parliament from 1984 to 2004, is in the province this week with officials from Canadian Nectar Products Inc. (CNPI).

CNPI has already purchased 155 acres of land in eastern P.E.I. and will begin planting on that land in about two weeks. No one is saying exactly where the orchard is yet.

The idea is to market P.E.I. apples to the world, especially Europe, where there is currently a shortage of apples.

Copps paid a visit to the P.E.I. legislature on Thursday where she observed question period from the public gallery with Amarjeet Singh Jatana, president of Canadian Nectar Products Inc., and Gurmant Grewal, vice-president of CNPI.

Grewal is a former member of Parliament himself in the Stephen Harper government.

“I’m here to make P.E.I. the apple capital of the world,’’ Copps told The Guardian.

She explained she knew Grewal from her days in Parliament. One day, he asked her what she knew about apples, which wasn’t much. But she was keen to learn and here she is.

“People are eating apples that have less sugar in them so it turns out they’ve examined all these different places and that P.E.I. has the best land to grow the new types of apples, which are cooler climates and less sugar,’’ she said.

Those varieties include honeycrisp, gala and ambrosia.

“(Jatana) has orchards in the (United) States, in British Columbia and they’ve zeroed in on P.E.I. because they really want to make a major apple production and packing facility here.’’

Jatana said it is also their intention to build a bioscience lab, perhaps at the BioCommons park in Charlottetown, and hire “lots of people’’.

“The tissue culture (research and development) will be here,’’ Jatana said, noting their orchard will not require deep-water wells or fertilizers and will not pollute the soil.

Jatana said they’ve also been in contact with 10 to 12 apple growers across P.E.I.

“There are already plenty of orchards on P.E.I. and we’ve been in touch with (the growers). They are very excited.’’

Jatana said they want to involve local growers in their production and help them grow more efficiently.

Grewal said the P.E.I. apples will be shipped to Europe.

“There is a very huge shortage of apples in the world. The apples will carry a P.E.I. sticker so everyone in the world will know very well where P.E.I. is,’’ Grewal said.

Copps said the European market is only seven hours away from P.E.I. and the Island’s proximity to Halifax’s deep water port is a huge advantage.

Jatana said they’ve already successfully launched Maritime variety scotia gold in the Asian market.

Copps said while apples packed in B.C. will last about 200 days, those that will be packed on P.E.I. can be packed and stored for at least 300 days.

“They have much more longevity because there is an issue with how (much better the P.E.I.) soil is,’’ she said.

No one from the provincial government was commenting on Thursday and there was no word as to whether any public money is involved but an official planting is expected to happen in about two weeks.

 

dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart