Ontario’s processing vegetable industry says the Ford government did not consult with growers before it announced plans to overhaul the sector’s marketing and pricing system.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) said it was “disappointed” Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman made his decision to order the complete overhaul of the sector’s market board “without any input from the grower community.”
OPVG is a provincially regulated market board under the Farm Products Marketing Act. The group says it represents nearly 400 Ontario processing vegetable growers who grow produce including; tomatoes, onions, sweet corn, carrots, cucumbers, green, wax and lima beans, green peas, squash and pumpkin.
“The board’s position on changes to the marketing system has been clear — we want the opportunity to be involved in developing a marketing structure and process that directly impacts the livelihood our farm families depend on,” said Michael Denys, the OPVG’s vice-chair. Denys was elected to the board in 2018 after serving a year as an appointed director.
The reaction from industry comes after Hardeman said Tuesday Ontario’s current marketing system for processing tomatoes wasn’t functioning: “Maintaining the current system poses a real risk of losing processing plants and related jobs. Too often we have seen the crop year in danger and the future market for Ontario processing vegetable growers put in jeopardy. As minister, I am not prepared to put these jobs and farmers at risk.”
As a result, he said he had instructed the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission to come up with a new marketing plan for the industry “that includes direct contracting between processors and tomato growers, and to look at options for other processing vegetables.”
The new system, he said, should be in place by the start of the 2020 crop year and be developed with direct input from growers.
More than 125 fruit and vegetable crops are grown in Ontario each year, with the province home to some of Canada’s top produce growing regions. Greenhouse production alone contributes some $782 million annually to the province’s farm gate. The province is also home to 16 vegetable processing facilities.