U.S. market plays a pivotal role for Ontario producers

06/15/2010 03:03:48 PM
Jim Offner

As of May 27, the Canadian dollar was at $1.07 in U.S greenbacks — a three-month high, although it was below the year-earlier mark of $1.12.

The export market is growing, said Falk, who numbered the Safeway, Winn-Dixie and Publix chains among her retail customers.

“We’ve been sending product to them for years, and that’s what’s been keeping us going,” she said. “Kevin (Fuller, the company’s co-owner) has been out to visit customers this spring, and everything seems to be on a positive note.”

Some element of the business will depend on the size of the U.S. crops, said Miriam Worley, co-owner of Chary Produce, Oakland, Ontario.

“We’ve been talking to regular customers and everybody always expects great things in the winter,” she said. “It depends on what happens with the U.S. crop. If everybody’s got bumper crop and has plenty of product, it won’t be good for us.”

The company exports nearly half of its product, Worley said.

“We export, not quite half, but we do a fair chunk of business and hope that it continues,” she said. “The hardest part is crossing the boarder.”

Paul Procyk, president of Procyk Farms, Wilsonville,  Ontario, said the exchange rate can be a major hurdle, but he said homegrown programs in the U.S. also can get in the way of business.

“The big challenge is the exchange rate and the local produce there,” he said. “The U.S. is trying to keep as much local as possible. Our biggest plus we have to offer is our quality and service, which usually does pretty good in the Southern U.S.

“Competition in the Southern U.S. is usually the Northern U.S., but we’re able to put together product that is wanted down there.”

Whatever the problems, shippers have to come up with solutions, said Tony Moro, president of Bradford & District Produce Ltd., wholly owned subsidiary of Bradford Cooperative Storages, Bradford, Ontario.

“I know it sounds kind of backwards, the Canadian dollar being strong, but it limits the affordability,” he said. “In the end, we have to do exports. It becomes a situation where we have customers there, so you have to service your customers, as well.”

Exchange rates and regulations are challenges, said Scott Siemon, co-owner of Stovel-Siemon, Mitchell, Ontario.

“It’s all these loopholes,” said Seimon, a rutabaga shipper. “You get one thing done and you have to do something else. It goes on and on and makes you want to work for the government. Everything is so hard to do.”


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