by SUSAN MANN
The Ontario greenhouse growers’ group move into its newly constructed office building this spring is helping to facilitate overall growth in the sector, says spokesman George Gilvesy.
The move into the 5,500 square foot building in Leamington also reflects the advancing needs of Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers’ members. The building has a large, technologically advanced conference room with seating for about 80 people making it possible for the organization to host on-site meetings and educational opportunities with its more than 220 members who grow greenhouse tomato, cucumbers and bell peppers.
The organization made the move into the new building after it outgrew its previous location. The Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, operating since 1967, had been renting facilities for many years.
Ontario is a greenhouse vegetable-producing powerhouse accounting for 63.3 per cent of Canadian greenhouse vegetable and fruit sales last year, according to Statistics Canada’s Greenhouse, Sod and Nursery Industries Report, 2011 released in May. Sales of greenhouse, nursery and sod products in Canada rose 1.3 per cent to nearly $3.3 billion last year and the increase was mostly the result of a 5.3 per cent gain in greenhouse vegetable and fruit sales, which reached $1.1 billion.
The number of greenhouses in Canada last year, 3,220, declined slightly from 3,285 in 2010 but the total area they covered increased to nearly 23 million square metres in 2011 from 22.5 million square metres in 2010. Most of the expansion was in greenhouse vegetables, Statistics Canada says.
Gilvesy, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, says increased sales correspond almost directly to an increase in provincial acreage. In Ontario, acreage went to 2,067 this year from 1,919 in 2011.
Increased demand for greenhouse products
Increased demand for greenhouse products is driving the expansion. “There is an increase in greenhouse products available at retail and in some cases displacing field products,” he says.
Statistics Canada notes that for the fifth consecutive year in 2011, the value of greenhouse vegetable sales exceeded the sales of field vegetables. Sales of tomatoes, the most valuable crop, rose four per cent to $496 million, while pepper sales were up 7.7 per cent to $300 million and cucumber sales increased 5.3 per cent to $279 million. All numbers here compare 2011 to 2010.
“We’re seeing in some cases a tradeoff,” Gilvesy says. “Some retailers are electing not to put field product on their shelves and they’re putting greenhouse on for the full year.”
Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec growers accounted for 95.6 per cent of greenhouse vegetable and fruit sales in 2011 with Ontario alone representing 63.3 per cent.
For this year, growth is expected to continue in the Ontario greenhouse sector. Gilvesy says it will be almost equivalent to last year.
The expansion of total greenhouse area across Canada was accompanied by a 0.3 per cent increase in total operating expenses, Statistics Canada says. Labour costs rose three per cent to $616 million in 2011 compared to 2010 and that accounted for 29.2 per cent of total expenses. The total number of seasonal and permanent greenhouse workers fell 2.2 per cent to 36,110 in 2011 compared to 2010.
There are some challenges in the market this year. Gilvesy says there’s an abundance of tomatoes due mainly to a large supply and increases in Mexican production. Florida growers are talking about reinstating their anti-dumping case against Mexico that had been suspended by agreement between the two sides since first being launched in 1996.
On the flower side, Statistics Canada says sales and resales of greenhouse flowers and plants fell 0.1 per cent to $1.4 billion. The main factor was a drop in ornamental bedding plant sales for transplanting, which was down 12.8 per cent in 2011 compared to 2010. Floriculture represented 55.1 per cent of total greenhouse product sales in 2011. BF