A report commissioned by the Greenbelt Foundation has identified opportunities for expansion in several fruits and vegetables in Ontario. They include fresh grapes, pears, strawberries, garlic, eggplant, sweet potatoes and vertical farms. These commodities could increase their market share in a very competitive environment despite downward trends in overall acreage.
As consultant John Groenewegen reveals in his report, fruit and vegetable acreage has decreased in Ontario between 1996 and 2016. Fruit acreage has decreased by 1.8 per cent each year, while vegetable acreage has decreased by 1.0 per cent each year. In contrast, greenhouse production has expanded by 15 per cent per year.
Some of the pressures include no business succession plan, high cost of labour, scale of operation and operating margins, weather risks, price takers and margins and food safety requirements.
Those acreage declines aside, production capacity has increased on many acres due to a number of factors. Yields are higher due to modern cultivars, more timely harvesting and appropriate storage.
One opportunity, as identified in the report, is garlic. Groenewegen says that this sector could expand from 10 per cent of annual consumption to 20 per cent. The current constraints are: seed supply and the seed multiplication factor, reliance on primarily one variety, competition from low-cost Chinese garlic, need to lower cost structure and to build storage, need for critical mass to serve major retail markets.
What could enable expansion of the garlic sector?
- - development of a seed supply sector for Ontario garlic growers;
- - using only certified disease-free seed;
- - developing cultivarselection and/or plant breeding program;
- - building a critical mass of garlic for retail accounts;
- - investing in controlled atmospheric storage;
- - encouraging retailer support for Ontario grown garlic;
- - promoting the attributes of Ontario garlic through Foodland Ontario
- - gaining access to crop protection materials available to U.S. growers
The complete report is expected later this spring.