OAG Annual Report
October 31, 2021 - Download the PDF
COMMENTS FROM THE CHAIR
Like others, the apple industry has been deeply affected by the numerous pandemic waves, but despite this, it continues to be vibrant with growers forging ahead. We’re still planting new blocks of orchard, trying new technology and looking to the future. It’s in our nature when there is so much invested.
Certainly, the world has some head winds coming as we emerge from the pandemic, such as climate change. With hundreds of thousands of trees, tree fruit orchards sequester carbon and create oxygen - it would be wonderful to be recognized as part of the solution. Inflation seems to be developing and food prices are increasing mostly due to increased interest rates, higher input costs, and transportation costs. Our Ontario apples will continue to be an important local source of fresh fruit for consumers and one they can count on.
The crop this season was not large due to several factors; a dry season last year prevented blossom development for this year; some spring frosts reduced the potential crop in some areas, and hail took acreage out of the fresh market stream. We estimate the crop to be down 18% vs. 2020. The quality of the fruit was good, although warm fall temperatures matured the fruit quickly.
Labour issues continue to dominate, and our Board and office spends lots of time on it. This year was complicated – in many ways more so than 2020. With a process in place for Seasonal Ag Workers to come to Canada, we were eager to start the growing season. The rules however kept changing or in some instances were very unclear. Our sincere thanks to OFVGA and OMAFRA for their continued commitment to assisting horticultural producers. One bright spot was their leadership in establishing vaccine clinics for workers arriving at Pearson Airport – this was no small feat. A large percentage of workers are now fully vaccinated, and we are hopeful that they will have no problems coming to Canada and our farms next spring. Day 10/8 testing for workers in isolation was a challenge to say the least. Working with the government appointed lab services who didn’t understand agriculture, the ag worker program, nor the logistics of rural Ontario, was maddening at times. Together with OFVGA and other grower groups, we found ways to get done what was needed for the health and safety of our workers. Unfortunately, not all growers were able to access the number of workers that they normally have. After the harvest was over, sending workers home was also more complicated because certain countries require COVID-19 tests prior to departing Canada.
The pandemic has also brought on a further examination of worker housing by governments. The federal government began consultation on worker housing earlier this year, which has historically been provincially regulated and inspected by Public Health Units. We will continue to work with OFVGA and CHC, providing the apple growers input, and will advise when there is new information.
Labour efficiency and productivity have been top-of-mind for apple growers. In early 2021, OMAFRA provided resources to the OAG and the Ontario Tender Fruit Growers to develop an Innovation and Technology Road Map for tree fruit growers. This new resource identifies technologies that may help reduce labour costs and/or mitigate the impact of COVID-19 with the goal to increase overall efficiencies in tree fruit orchards. The Road Map information is posted to our website.
The OAG would like to thank OFVGA and Farm and Food Care for the development of More than a Migrant Worker initiative, which is supported by a group of Ontario agricultural organizations working together to thank and support our workers who come here each year to help grow the local food that Ontarians enjoy. Please visit the website (www.morethanamigrantworker.ca), follow, and share these important stories on social media.
On behalf of Ontario’s apple growers, I would like to thank and acknowledge our many funding partners. The OAG appreciates the funding from Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Thank you also to the Ontario government for their Grassroots Growth Program. We also gratefully acknowledge funding from the Apple Marketers’ Association of Ontario (AMAO) and the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association and their continued support of our promotion and research activities.
Thank you to our Board of Directors and the Grower Committee representatives for their continued commitment, participation, and bringing their perspectives to the conversation. Thank you to all our staff, Kelly, Larissa and Kelle for continuing the work be it from your homes during lockdowns or from the office.
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