A pilot project that is shipping B.C. cherries to South Korea is hopefully just the beginning, according to Canada’s international trade minister.
Mary Ng toured Northern Cherries in Kelowna Thursday (Aug. 18), just a few days after the family-owned business shipped its first batch of the fruit to the Asian country.
“For Northern Cherries and Canadian cherries to get into a new market like South Korea is terrific,” said Ng. “To see a family business that is a big-scale business that is growing is also terrific.”
Canada and South Korea have been negotiating tariffs on cherries since 2015, resulting in a drop from 24 to 4.8 per cent. The tariffs will be eliminated by 2024.
“It was our Canadian Food Inspection Agency and their South Korean counterpart working together to make sure that the way in which these beautiful cherries were able to get into that market, met all of the requirements of food export,” said Ng.
The minister added it’s her hope that, whether it’s a fruit production company in B.C. or a range of companies in all sectors of the Canadian economy, will be able to access markets such as South Korea.
“So really being able to help Canadian businesses grow into those international markets, that’s the job.”
For Northern Cherries, access to South Korea, and possibly other markets, is vital.
“We were limited to only four or five markets before this,” said Harsh Khela, chief operating officer. “It helps us a lot having another large market to send our cherries to.”
Northern cherries also ships its product to the US, UK, China, and Japan. The company started with Khela’s father who opened a fruit and vegetable operation in 1992 in Oliver. Construction on their cherry plant on Glenmore Road North started in 2015. The company has several orchards in Kelowna, Lake Country, and Vernon, spanning some 480 acres.