Anxiety hits greenhouse industry

(File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / tony4urban)

The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) is worried about an increasing number of greenhouses in Essex County moving to and expanding in the U.S.

General Manager Joe Sbrocchi told Blackburn News several growers in Leamington and in Kingsville have set up satellite offices in many states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia to be closer to the U.S. market and that is keeping him up at night. He said high electricity prices in Ontario and the fact the new North American trade agreement to replace NAFTA has not been ratified yet is cause for uncertainty and concern. Sbrocchi said decisions to expand here or in the U.S. are made years in advance and costly electricity prices and the uncertainty around NAFTA were big factors in the moves.

“We would hope that at some point we could get favourable pricing simply because we’re such huge users that you wouldn’t want to lose that kind of consumption to other jurisdictions either,” said Sbrocchi.

Sbrocchi hopes the trend doesn’t continue to grow because Essex County has a lot to offer greenhouse growers such as good infrastructure and a reliable workforce.

“We have some of the best foreign worker programs on the planet and those should never be upset because we don’t have Canadians that want to do that work,” he added.

Sbrocchi said most of the large greenhouses in Leamington and Kingsville have at least one satellite office south of the border and hopes the anxiety is addressed after this federal election.

“Show me. Everybody says the right things and what they think you want to hear during an election. I don’t get too caught up in that, I like to see what happens afterwards,” Sbrocchi said.

Sbrocchi said freezing the minimum wage in Ontario helped calm the waters a bit.

He added greenhouses are the farming of the future with one acre of production yielding significantly more than the same acreage of field farming.

Sbrocchi also said Southwestern Ontario has tremendous potential if things are done right.