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Research reveals ability to expand Ontario’s $2.2 billion fruit and vegetable sector

The report finds that Ontario can boost local production in the Greenbelt region, contributing to the local economy and relying less on imported fruits and vegetables.


June 11, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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There is an opportunity to increase the market share of Ontario-grown fresh grapes from 1.6 per cent of annual consumption, to 8.3 per cent, by planting another 3,720 acres of grape vines.

New research from the Greenbelt Foundation highlights an opportunity to grow Ontario’s $2.2 billion fruit and vegetable sector, including more local production of fresh grapes, pears, strawberries, garlic, eggplant and sweet potatoes—as well as vertical farming. This expansion could result in up to $100 million in increased farm-gate revenue, making an important contribution to Ontario’s economic recovery.

“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. With COVID-19 reminding us of the vulnerability of a globalized food system, these findings are more critical than ever.

“The Greenbelt Foundation is a champion of Ontario food, having invested in over 240 farmer- and industry-led projects that increased Ontario food sales by more than $262 million since 2010,” says Kathy Macpherson, VP of research and policy at Greenbelt Foundation. “We continue to look for ways to innovate and grow the agri-food sector, particularly now to support economic recovery.”

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There is an opportunity to increase the market share of Ontario-grown fresh grapes from 1.6 per cent of annual consumption, to 8.3 per cent, by planting another 3,720 acres of grape vines. 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 per cent of annual consumption. 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 per cent of annual consumption.

There is an opportunity to increase the market share of Ontario-grown fresh grapes from 1.6 per cent of annual consumption, to 8.3 per cent, by planting another 3,720 acres of grape vines.

Beyond fruits, in 2018, Ontario produced 10,132 tonnes of sweet potatoes. By planting just an additional 313 acres, Ontario could satisfy 79 per cent of its consumption of sweet potatoes, resulting in 12,100 additional tonnes of the root vegetable and $2.0 million in revenue for farmers. 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.

“This report is very timely,” says Alison Robertson, executive director of Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA). “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. 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.”