From the Editor: Good and bad news in 2017 Grower Survey
‘Good’ and ‘bad’ news in survey
May 2017 – The industry remains quite vibrant. Not everyone is celebrating record-setting years, but most growers we’ve heard from have been satisfied with their sales and prices.
But it’s not all “blue skies” and “clear sailing.” There are some unsettling conditions that need monitoring, but more of that later; first the good news.
This issue includes our sixth annual Grower Survey. Echoing surveys of the past few years, respondents remain generally quite positive. Sales in 2016 were up over 2015, and many growers were eyeing price hikes this year.
The year-over-year sales growth was impressive, with 23 per cent registering increases of more than 10 per cent, and a further 32 per cent with increases of between five and 10 per cent.
Most respondents are raising prices, and that’s always positive news. Only 27 per cent said they were holding the line this year; the remainder are implementing hikes of “more than 10 per cent” (six per cent), “between five and 10 per cent (15 per cent), and “less than five per cent” (52 per cent).
Electricity price concerns were raised in the survey, with almost a third of respondents listing it as the input cost that rose the most in 2016 compared to 2015. One growth area for virtually all growers is in extending the growing seasons, especially for vegetable growers. That means lighting, and electricity rates will influence those decisions.
Labour costs came second. The need to automate where possible has never been greater. But there is a bigger problem looming, as noted by the recently released report Agriculture 2025: How the Sector’s Labour Challenges Will Shape its Future research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).
“The gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs,” noted the report authors. “Among commodities, the ‘greenhouse, nursery and floriculture’ industry will continue to have the largest labour gap. With an expected gap of 27,000 workers in 2025, this commodity group will account for nearly one-quarter of the sector’s labour gap.”
The cap and trade cloud was – at press time – still looming over the Ontario greenhouse sector. Unlike colleagues in British Columbia and Alberta, who have 80 per cent rebates from their governments, Ontario growers have not yet been offered similar assistance. One estimate pegs the cost at about $6,200 per acre. That’s a tough cost to try to pass on to customers.
But there is a silver lining, of sorts, that has been introduced in the province. In late March, the $19 million Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative was announced by the Ontario government.
Even with its many hurdles, the industry is more than holding its own. It remains a jewel of Canadian horticulture. And the more that policymakers understand that, the more the industry will grow.