The Greenbelt Foundation has released a new report, “Plant the Seeds: Opportunities to Grow Southern Ontario’s Fruit and Vegetable Sector”, outlining opportunities to expand the $2.2 billion sector in Ontario, including through more local production of fresh grapes, pears, strawberries, garlic, eggplant and sweet potatoes — as well as vertical farming.
The executive summary shares that for most of the crops examined in the analysis, expanding production across the Greenbelt and southwestern Ontario would displace some of the $7.3 billion of annual imported fruits and vegetables.
Key findings, copied from the Greenbelt Foundation:
Strawberries: 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 farm-gate revenue.
Fresh Grapes: 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 total farm-gate revenues.
Sweet Potatoes: 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 farm-gate revenue.
Pears: Pears can be stored for four to six months, depending on the variety, which suggests the potential for Ontario production to expand and supply more than 75% of consumption requirements for one-third of the year, or more. At this volume, Ontario growers would be supplying just under 25% of the Ontario market, a doubling of the current 12% share.
Eggplant: A 25% expansion of eggplant production, to 1,694 tonnes, would account for just under 20% of estimated annual consumption in the province Using 6 tonnes of production per acre, the expansion is by 57 acres, with the expansion representing another $700,000 of farm value.
Garlic: This expansion opportunity requires approximately 1,000 additional acres of garlic from the 2018 acreage estimate of 783 planted acres. This expansion equals another $10 to $15 million in value at the farm level.
View the full report on the Greenbelt Foundation’s website here.