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Canning plant closure forces farmers to grow for fresh


August 15, 2008
By The Canadian Press

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peaches01August 15, 2008, St. Catharines,
Ont. – The closure of Canada’s last fruit canning plant in June has
forced tender fruit farmers to make adjustments that will cause big
changes in the marketplace, says an industry spokesman.

August 15, 2008, St. Catharines, Ont. – The closure of Canada’s last fruit canning plant in June has forced tender fruit farmers to make adjustments that will cause big changes in the marketplace, says an industry spokesman.

peaches01CanGro Foods Inc., which was based in the Niagara area, closed its doors forever June 27, so peach and other tender fruit producers whose trees produced crops for canning have been forced to turn to different varieties that are suitable for fresh consumption, says Len Troup, chairman of the Ontario Tender Fruit Producers.

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“The industry is just changing and it basically means we are now a fresh market,” he says.

Troup says all the producers “have to diversify and grow enough other tender fruit such as nectarines, apricots, peaches, plums and pears so we can maintain a fresh market and make ourselves profitable.”

Much of the fresh tender fruit from the Niagara region is sold in eastern Canada, with about 15 per cent in the Maritimes, 50 per cent in Ontario and 35 per cent in Quebec, says Troup.

The remainder goes to the Prairie provinces, he adds.

With the closing of the canning plant, local canned fruit will be impossible to find. It will likely be replaced with canned fruits from China and other offshore countries, say industry watchers.

One solution for consumers is to preserve fresh produce they’ve purchased for use in the colder months.

“Preserving while local fruit is fresh is an excellent way to get the taste of summer all year long while ensuring that your family gets the best product available,” says Helene Laurendeau, a Montreal dietitian and television host.

She says that she has noticed consumers seem to be turning to fresh fruits and vegetables and moving away from processed foods in an effort to adopt a more well-rounded and healthful diet.

“Now more than ever is the time for consumers to get back to the basics of healthier informed eating,” says Laurendeau.

But Troup points out that these days home canning takes place on a very modest scale.

“The vast majority of consumers either don’t want to do it, or don’t know how and they don’t want to know.”

Laurendeau concurs.

“Preserving is a tough issue because you have to convince people that home canning is a benefit because of lower prices, better flavour, the fruits are in season and then you can enjoy them in winter,” she says. “You have to be a believer, a foodie or someone who is very organized to preserve fresh fruits for later.”

The mother of two children says that she freezes fresh tender fruit so she can make smoothies for them in the winter months.

To make the marketing of fresh fruit successful, Troup says that if every individual bought locally grown in season “we would not have a problem; we would have a shortage.”

His message to consumers shopping in supermarkets where counters overflow with imported tender fruit such as peaches, apricots and plums during Canada’s harvest season is to “give them a kick where it hurts.

“The supermarkets must realize that 100 per cent of their customers are Canadian and it’s those customers who can change the situation by buying local, not imported.”