Toronto: A Plethora of Produce Trade

    A market status update and predictions for 2018

    An internationally popular city with a growing and diverse ethnic population, Toronto boasts one of the top terminal markets in North America. The jewel of Ontario is also surrounded by verdant growing regions along the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. This access to local product, combined with an ever-widening array of imported fruits and vegetables, continues to attract new business partners to the Ontario Food Terminal and merchant wholesalers.

    Locally Grown
    Part of Toronto’s attraction revolves around local fruit, as southern Ontario has ample seasonal production. Apples are a top draw; according to the Ontario Apple Growers, there are up to 20 varieties grown in the province on over 15,000 acres. Top varieties by acreage are McIntosh, Gala, Empire, Red Delicious, and Northern Spy. In addition to apples, other seasonal favorites include pears, plums, apricots, cherries, raspberries, and strawberries. On the vegetable side, wholesalers can source anything from asparagus, beans, and broccoli to pumpkins, radishes, and sweet corn. Among the crops with rising acreage are mushrooms, rutabagas, and turnips.

    Of course, North America’s top greenhouse production area is just a couple hours away from Toronto, in Leamington, where acres of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are grown in massive structures to meet skyrocketing demand.

    Rain, Sourcing & Volatile Pricing
    On and off the Ontario Food Terminal (OFT), wholesalers report positive growth, even with more competition and some tough pricing as a result of the California floods early in the year, which curtailed harvests and shipments of some fruits and vegetables, and affected plantings of others.

    “Business is good,” confirms Anthony Formusa, president of National Produce Marketing, Inc. “We’re seeing moderate positive increases in sales volume—as well as increased competition with new, emerging companies.”

    Formusa says Toronto is a growing city that continues to get a great deal of notice and notoriety. “It’s in the spotlight, and that’s luring newcomers into the import and distribution businesses, including merchants from Central and South America, and even Mexico who are setting up their own deals with family or other connections.” Even so, he is forecasting reasonable, steady growth for the rest of 2017.

    Curtailed Shipments
    Much of the progress, however, came with some growing pains this year. The impact of the California rain and floods hit most markets in North America, and Toronto was no exception.

    “The rains that California experienced in the early part of 2017 are still having an effect,” mentions Manny Dinis, vice president at Triple Star Logistics Inc. The vegetable deal ran behind in both production and supply, he says, and it took a while to catch up.

    “Prices have been at or close to all-time highs on most green commodities,” Dinis shares. “Lettuce touched $110 a case on the floor, which is unprecedented. Packaged salads remained very tight and production was very slow.

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