Sweet harvest

The federal government is investing $240,000 in the marketing of Okanagan cherries, the production of which has risen 60 per cent in the past eight years. Tourists Betty Jane Blair and her daughter Emily are shown picking cherries at a Kelowna farm in this file photo from 2015.

Cherry growers in B.C. will get a $240,000 marketing boost for their fruit from the federal government.

The funding, announced Tuesday in Kelowna, is designed to expand existing markets and open up new ones.

Plans call for new promotional materials, attendance of growers' representatives at international tradeshows, and a pest management protocol to comply with requirements in countries such as Japan and South Korea.

After apples, cherries have become the second most-grown tree fruit in the Okanagan, with a volume of about 17,000 tonnes a year.

Much of it is shipped overseas, where it can sell for five times as much as it does in Canada.

"A significant portion of the Canadian cherry business involves export," Sukhpal Bal, a Kelowna farmer and president of the BC Cherry Association, said in a release.

Federal funding through programs such as the Agri-Marketing program has been instrumental in tapping new markets, Bal said.

Fuelled largely by surging overseas demand, Okanagan cherry production has risen almost 60 per cent in the past eight years.

This will be the first year that Okanagan cherries are shipped in large quantities to Japan, after the Canadian and Japanese governments reached a trade deal last August.

Annual cherry exports to Japan alone could be worth $8 million, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada estimates.

The new federal funding to support market development was announced by Justice Minister David Lametti during a visit to a Kelowna farm.

"The government of Canada is committed to creating good middle-class jobs by helping our farmers and processors compete and succeed in markets at home and around the world," Lametti said in the release.