Another benefit is the ongoing improvements and expansion. Over the past year, the OFT has undergone some major renovations, including a $5 million project to enclose the terminal’s docks with sliding glass doors, cover the center buyers’ court area, build a walking bridge between the two main buildings, and install additional security cameras and a card-access system.
Challenges & Obstacles
Although the Ontario produce trade enjoys numerous advantages, the industry is certainly not immune to challenges. For example, MacKenzie says many produce professionals throughout the province are struggling to establish strong food safety programs or tweak their existing programs. “These programs are not cheap to establish or maintain,” he says. “But there isn’t one produce person who would say they’re not necessary to maintain a safe food supply and the excellent reputation fresh produce has in the minds of consumers.”
In addition to food safety challenges, the industry has also experienced a shortage in long distance drivers. “Many of our fleet carriers are having a difficult time finding qualified and capable personnel,” remarks Randy Steinberg, president of Torizon Logistics Inc., a Toronto-based truck broker.
“Finding bodies to fill positions is easy; it’s finding the right people with the right attitude and work ethic that can sometimes be challenging,” points out Joe Rubini, president of Woodbridge-based truck broker Rally Logistics Inc. “I am fortunate we’ve been able to align ourselves with some of the best in the industry.”
Rubini adds that trucking capacity is also an ongoing problem and will likely continue for at least another year. “The Canadian dollar has dropped significantly and has caused the cost of trucks and trailers to increase on this side of the border,” he says. “This hasn’t really helped any Canadian trucking companies acquire more trucks, resulting in a ‘tight’ trucking market during peak seasons when most volumes are already up to begin with.”
More stringent regulations are also posing a challenge. “New regulations are being implemented in various states, pertaining to equipment standards, emissions controls, and various other changes,” MacKenzie explains.
Onward and Upward
Despite the obstacles growers and sellers face on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis, it is a cycle well worth repeating. “I believe the advantages of the Terminal for produce buyers will continue,” MacKenzie says. “Steady as she goes.”
Chapman also believes the OFT will continue to hold its own. “This is a progressive organization that can assimilate and react quickly to meet the changing needs of the consumer,” he comments.
“With the population growing each year and the diversity of the population, we have small retailers selling fresh fruits and vegetables from all over the world,” adds Nicholas. “So our future is bright.”
Image: ©iStock.com/chang/marekuliasz/jmbatt/Angela Archilla/badmanproduction.