Because Ontario is a key player in the nation’s agriculture industry, and in North America, examining the trade in Canada’s most populous province is a must. This produce powerhouse is the leading fruit and vegetable producer in eastern Canada and harvests more than 125 different crops valued at more than $1.6 billion, according to the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association.
Ontario’s expanding and increasingly diverse population drives the province’s produce trade, and Toronto has long been celebrated as one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Yet in more recent years, the city has rightly earned a reputation as a foodie mecca.
“Because we have such a diverse group of ethnicities living in Toronto, there’s demand for a wide range of flavors,” confirms Julian Sarraino, COO of Fresh Taste Produce Limited Canada, an importer located on the Ontario Food Terminal.
Ontario’s unique combination of cultures has led to a vibrant mix of fine and casual restaurants, quick-serve food venues, and supermarkets. There are currently more than 37,000 restaurants, bars, and caterers across the province generating $32 billion in annual sales according to Restaurants Canada.
As for the retail grocery scene, there are more than 8,500 food and beverage stores throughout the province, and many of the thousands of dining and grocery destinations are supplied by Ontario produce wholesalers from the well-known Ontario Food Terminal.
The Ever-Evolving OFT
Located right in the city of Toronto, the Ontario Food Terminal (OFT) is the heartbeat of the province’s produce pipeline. The wholesale market, which moves more than 2 billion pounds of produce annually, serves as the major distribution center for eastern Canada as well as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York in the United States. Spanning 40 acres, the OFT is the third largest wholesale produce distribution center in North America and the largest in Canada.
“The benefit of the OFT is that buyers of fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables can shop at a competitive wholesale market in one location, thereby not having to drive all over the province to source their produce,” points out Bruce Nicholas, general manager, secretary and treasurer of the Ontario Food Terminal Board.
“This conveniently and strategically located facility provides local Ontario produce, organic produce, and produce from all over the world, which is sourced from the OFT’s 400 Ontario farmers and 20 warehouse tenants,” adds Nicholas.