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Ontario relies on imports but exports more than $1 billion in value

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Ontario is a major importer and exporter of fresh produce, with trade partners across the globe.

According to the Ontario Fruit & Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA), BB #:162382 the province’s fruit and vegetable farmers export $1.5 billion in produce each year, with greenhouse vegetables accounting for more than half.

Michelle Broom, president of the Ontario Produce Marketing Association (OPMA), BB #:162383 said Ontario’s top produce trading partners are the United States and Mexico.

“Emerging relationships are growing with countries in the Caribbean, South America, and Europe, as well as with China,” she said.

Each year, Ontario imports more than $5 billion in fruit and vegetables from other countries, primarily bananas, potatoes, lettuce, watermelons, and tomatoes.

This large number of imports proves there is room to grow for provincial producers, according to Broom.

“There’s significant opportunity for the sector to expand to meet domestic consumption needs,” she said.

More than 85 percent of what Nature Fresh Farms Sales Inc. BB #:274537 in Leamington, ON, grows is exported to the United States, said Ray Wowryk, director of business development, but the company also imports a number of commodities, particularly sweet bell peppers, to fill seasonal gaps.

“Consumers are driving demand for all fresh produce commodities,” he said.

“We’re working with a number of like-minded growers globally to ensure we have an uninterrupted supply of all commodities throughout the year. Mexico, Holland, Spain, and Israel all play a major role in maintaining supply during our shoulder season and dips in production.”