Cynthia DavidRick Philipp of Denboer Farm displays the company’s carrots at the Ontario Food Terminal. Philipp says a supply shortage last winter meant brisker sales. That’s not the case this year, wholesalers say, since mild winter weather has resulted in an oversupply of produce. TORONTO — Wholesalers blame unseasonably good weather and a lack of natural disasters for low prices and an oversupply of fresh produce in Toronto.
“The weather’s been too cooperative,” said greenhouse specialist Fred Koornneef, president of Grimsby, Ontario-based Koornneef Produce Ltd., from the Ontario Food Terminal.
“The markets are so saturated, so cheap, that in a lot of places the price is below the cost of production,” Koornneef said.
The good news, said Jim Gordon, operations manager of Burlington, Ontario-based Ippolito Produce Ltd., is that the Canadian market remains strong and steady while other countries and sectors falter.
“A lot of us were thinking that sooner or later, we’re going to get hit,” Gordon said.
“I don’t think that’s happened to any great extent, but we’re still keeping our fingers crossed.”
Stephen Rodrigues, national sales manager for Global Fresh Canada, said the import-exporter’s research shows retail chain produce sales are up over last year in dollars and in volume, while sales at the Toronto food terminal are down, although not by much.
The fine weather has certainly made winter vegetables easy on the pocketbook.
“Usually in January there’s a cold snap in the U.S. that leaves product short and leads to higher prices, but not this year,” said Tony Fallico, salesman for F.G. Lister & Co. Ltd.
“We’re paying $15 instead of $40 for a case of tomatoes,” said Farley Donsky, director of sales for local restaurant supplier Mister Produce.
“Romaine is $21, in February. Some years it’s gone up to $70.”
While the balmy February weather made standing outside the food terminal selling Ontario carrots and golden beets more bearable for six hours a day, Rick Philipp at the Denboer Farm stand in the farmers market said last winter was busier.
“There was a shortage of everything last year, while this year there’s a surplus of everything,” Philipp said.
Frigid weather hurts sales, he said, because produce is stored inside the trailers, so occasional buyers see only trucks with their doors closed.
Bruce Nicholas, general manager of the Ontario Food Terminal Board, which runs the market, said volumes were up slightly to 975,000 tons in 2011 compared to 971,000 tons in 2010. The buyer count remains at more than 5,000 registered buyers.