Supplies of carrots from Ontario look to be down by approximately 20 percent.
Tony Tomizza of Dominion Farm Produce Ltd. in Bradford, ON points to the warm, wet fall in Ontario as the reason why volumes are down. “Initially we lost some acres due to flooding. But we put product into storage warmer than we’d like to,” he says. “We generally store until April so we’re concerned about how they’re keeping. They’re in cold storage but we like to put them in when the ground is close to freezing.”
Harvest also finished later this year also because of that warm weather. “We tried to drag it out a bit but you have to watch the calendar too,” says Tomizza.
However sizing is normal with about 30 percent of the crop on jumbo sizing.
At the same time, demand for U.S. Thanksgiving was softer than anticipated. “We’re not sure why. Say a customer would normally take a trailer load of cello carrots for Thanksgiving. This year they only took 1/2 to 3/4 of a load so it was down,” he says.
Healthy eating helping
However consumers preferring to eat local continues to help demand. “Also people being at home during COVID-19 and not eating well--now we’re seeing healthier eating which is good for our sales,” Tomizza says.
And as Canadian temperatures dip and winter sets in, that too tends to boost local carrot consumption. “When we get snow and miserable weather here, our root vegetable demand picks right up. It’s been mild this fall and demand did slack off by about 25 percent,” he says. That said, with Ontario COVID-19 restrictions more relaxed than those of winter 2020, Tomizza also anticipates more gatherings which may promote more vegetable consumption as well.
As for pricing, it’s lower than last year because of neighboring province Quebec competing. “Quebec had better weather than us, more crop in storage and they’ve been cheaper than Ontario. It’s hurting us on pricing,” says Tomizza, noting what’s puzzling is given so many commodity growers and shippers across North America have had to work inflated input costs into their pricing, this hasn’t reflected in Quebec’s pricing. As he notes, input costs on everything from fuel to bags to food safety are up 30 percent across the board.
However, he does note pricing will take a turn likely in the New Year. “We’re preparing our customers for an increase in January. We’re locked in for December but we have to raise prices,” Tomizza says.