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Greenbelt Foundation invests in Niagara tender fruit production


September 23, 2021
By Fruit and Vegetable

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On Sept. 23, Ontario Tender Fruit Growers received more than $280,000 in funding from the Greenbelt Foundation, with the goal of strengthening the economic viability of Niagara’s tender fruit sector. The funding will support the planting of approximately 75,000 new trees and 10,000 new vines across the Niagara tender fruit and grape area – one of two Specialty Crop Areas protected by Ontario’s Greenbelt.

This investment is projected to increase fruit production in the region by seven per cent, contributing an additional $10 million in value to the sector and creating 150 new full-time jobs. This major investment in Greenbelt agriculture is part of an ongoing “replant” program. The Greenbelt Foundation previously contributed $400,000 toward this program between 2015–2017, supporting the planting of 156,000 trees and vines that are producing fruit today.

“The Government of Ontario is proud to support this important initiative from the Greenbelt Foundation to help grow the agri-food sector and get more Ontario tender fruit into the market,” said Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, in a press release. “It’s targeted investments like these that will create jobs and economic growth in the Niagara region and will keep Ontario at the forefront of global tender fruit production.”

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The program uses improved plant varieties that can withstand the extremes of climate change, provide a consistent supply of local fruit, meet increasing consumer demand, and net higher prices in the marketplace for farmers. Ultimately, the program will strengthen and grow Niagara’s tender fruit sector, which has an estimated market value of just over $60 million.

“The Niagara tender fruit and grape area is one of Canada’s most productive growing regions, owing to a unique climate and close proximity to the country’s largest market,” explains Edward McDonnell, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation.

“According to a Greenbelt Foundation research report: Dollars and Sense: Opportunities to Strengthen Southern Ontario’s Food System, over $53 million worth of tender fruit is imported to Canada each year, more of which could be produced in this region. With today’s investment, the Greenbelt Foundation is supporting our farmers in proactively mitigating challenges associated with climate change, enabling them to produce more of the high-quality fruit the region is known for.”

As a result of the initial investment, there has already been a 5,000-tonne increase in tender fruit production in the region, a 15 per cent expansion of the sector, an increase in economic activity of $23.4 million, the addition of 311 new full-time jobs, and an additional 10 million pounds of tender fruit produced for the local consumer market.

“Consumer and retail demand for locally grown tender fruit continues to grow,” explains Phil Tregunno, Ontario Tender Fruit Growers chair. “Our replant program is immensely popular among growers, who are contributing 70 per cent of overall costs, underscoring their commitment to the program. We are grateful to the Greenbelt Foundation for their ongoing support of our growers and the industry as a whole, which makes an important contribution to Ontario’s rural economy.”

This project is also being completed in partnership with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, University of Guelph, and Tender Fruit and Table Grape Growers.