Research reveals new ability to expand Ontario’s $2.2B fruit & vegetable sector
Ontario field-grown strawberry production could expand to supply 37.5% of annual consumption
TORONTO — 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.
“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,” said Kathy Macpherson, VP of research and policy at Greenbelt Foundation, in a prepared statement. “We continue to look for ways to innovate and grow the agri-food sector, particularly now to support economic recovery.”
According to the findings, there is an opportunity to increase the market share of Ontario-grown fresh grapes from 1.6% of annual consumption, to 8.3%, 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% 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. Expanding greenhouse strawberry production is an opportunity to supply Ontario strawberries year-round, which could contribute to well over 50% of annual consumption.
Beyond fruits, in 2018, Ontario produced 10,132 tonnes of sweet potatoes. By planting just an additional 313 acres, Ontario could satisfy 79% 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.