Ontario processing tomato contracts set

(HeinzItUp.com)

An agreement has been reached between growers and processors of Ontario tomatoes for the 2017 growing season, maintaining the 2016 pricing agreement and 2016 contract tonnage.

Final prices, however, weren’t released Friday, as they historically have been on the website of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG).

According to the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processing Association (OFVPA) in a release Friday, growers “successfully negotiated to get back over 100,000 tons of tomato production previously cut.”

“I am pleased that Ontario’s Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG) and our three major tomato processors worked together to reach negotiated agreements for the 2017 growing season,” said Jeff Leal, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs.

“I appreciate their hard work during the negotiating process to ensure a deal was reached for the parties involved.”

Leal dismissed the board of directors of the OPVG when an impasse to a new contract between tomato growers and the main processors could not be broken. He appointed former agriculture minister Elmer Buchanan as the trustee of the board and he worked to get the contracts done.

“As with any successful negotiations, both sides came to the table and were willing to compromise to reach an agreement,” said Buchanan in a statement. “This resulted in a successful deal that will benefit the industry.”

“For the first time we could sit down directly with our partner growers and resolve many issues,” OFVPA president Steve Lamoure said Friday.

“This happened because the Wynne government stepped in to get both parties to the table,” he said. “We were within hours of losing significant parts of the growing season.”

Lamoure described the restored tonnage as “a major win for the growers, worth approximately $10-$11 million.”

The three largest processors of tomatoes in southern Ontario reached agreements under the process, including ConAgra Foods Canada, Highbury Canco and Sun-Brite Foods.

The processors had pushed back against the ability of the OPVG to negotiate processing tomato contracts for all producers.

A proposal to open up the system from the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission was met with acrimony last summer, leading Leal to put a halt to the reform process until there was more study of the situation.

Now that there have been contracts created for the same tonnage as in 2016, there will still have to be a permanent solution found to the reorganization of the way tomato and other processing vegetable contracts are negotiated.

“It is important that (Leal) set in place permanent regulations to the interim changes he made to save the 2017 season,” Lamoure said in the OFVPA’s release.

“We can’t be back to the same impasse come September. We have proven that reform leads to investments and jobs. Working directly with our partner growers really worked well.”

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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