Farmers fear losing major contracts

Canada: Heinz closing Ontario plant in 2014, cutting more than 700 jobs

After more than a century operating in the heart of Ontario’s tomato country, ketchup-maker Heinz Canada is closing the doors of its plant in Leamington next year.

Heinz has been in Leamington for more than a century, after choosing the city in 1909 for its first expansion outside the United States. The Leamington plant produced ketchup, condiments and sauces, baby food and tomato juice. It will now shift production from the plant to its smaller facility in St. Marys, Ont., and to the U.S.

Approximately 40 per cent of the 7,000 acres of tomatoes planted in the region are contracted to the company, according to figures supplied by Chatham-Kent agriculture specialist Kim Cooper.

Francis Dobbelaar, a member of the board of directors of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, said many farmers have already started work on their tomato crop and will be at a loss if Heinz does not honour their existing contracts for this year. “Farmers have done the cultivating and have made the investments necessary for next year’s crop,” he told the Chatham Voice community newspaper. “We have to wait and see what Heinz does in terms of its contracts and whether there will be some type of compensation.”

Dobbelaar said issues of planting alternative crops or market changes will come to light once more is known. Transporting tomatoes to processing elsewhere isn’t feasible in the long term, Dobbelaar added.

Fast food chain McDonald’s announced last month that it was ending its relationship with Heinz because they had named former Burger King CEO Bernardo Hees as its president.

Source: citynews.ca

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