Jun 10, 2020
Report: $100M expansion possible for Ontario produce growers

A report from the Toronto-based Greenbelt Foundation estimates Ontario produce growers could expand their farm-gate revenue by as much as $100 million.

Ontario’s “$2.2 billion fruit and vegetable sector,” according to a news release from Greenbelt, includes more local production of fresh grapes, pears, strawberries, garlic, eggplant and sweet potatoes—as well as vertical farming.

“Plant the Seeds: Opportunities to Grow Southern Ontario’s Fruit & Vegetable Sector,” is a new report by the Greenbelt Foundation that outlines how the region – of which the Greenbelt contributes 750,000 acres of highly productive farmland – could provide an even greater contribution to Ontario’s rural economy by relying less on imported fruits and vegetables.

Alison Robertson, Executive Director of Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA), said the report was timely.

“As Canadians emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, it is my hope that the public and governments have a new appreciation for food sovereignty and security,” she said in the press release. “As we continue to address ongoing challenges in the agri-food sector, such as competing in a global market and declining margins, we must also explore opportunities to increase Ontario production.”

Kathy Macpherson, Vice President of Research and Policy at Greenbelt Foundation, said the group continues “to look for ways to innovate and grow the agri-food sector, particularly now to support economic recovery.”

There is an opportunity to increase the market share of Ontario-grown fresh grapes from 1.6% of annual consumption to 8.3%, by planting another 3,720 acres of grapevines, according to the press release. At $7,000 in gross revenue per acre, this increase represents $26.4 million in revenue for farmers.

Meanwhile, Ontario field-grown strawberry production could expand to supply 37.5% of annual consumption, according to the press release. That would represent an additional 11,000 tonnes of field-grown strawberries and a potential increase of $45.5 million in revenue for farmers. And that is just field-grown strawberries: expanding greenhouse strawberry production is an opportunity to supply Ontario strawberries year-round, which could contribute to well over 50% of annual consumption.

Beyond fruits, in 2018, Ontario produced 10,132 tonnes of sweet potatoes. By planting just an additional 313 acres, Ontario could satisfy 79% of its consumption of sweet potatoes, resulting in 12,100 additional tonnes of the root vegetable and $2.0 million in revenue for farmers, according to the press release. An even greater impact on Ontario’s economy could be calculated by incorporating the direct, indirect, and induced impacts of all of these market increases, plus other crops not considered in this report.

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