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Growing markets for ethno-cultural veggies?


August 10, 2011
By OFVGA

Aug. 10, Guelph, Ont. — Work has begun on field trials, market research
and consumer taste tests of new ethno-cultural vegetable crops being
grown in Ontario.

Aug. 10, Guelph, Ont. — Work has begun on field trials, market research and consumer taste tests of new ethno-cultural vegetable crops being grown in Ontario.

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA) and researchers at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (VRIC) have teamed up to explore the market potential of vegetable crops popular with South Asian and Afro-Caribbean consumers and how successfully these produce varieties can be grown and marketed in Ontario.

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“Our demographics are changing. The vast majority of Canada’s immigrants used to be of European background and now more than half are of Asian heritage,” says Brian Gilroy, a farmer and OFVGA chairman. “Fruit and vegetable farmers are looking for new ways to diversify their markets and we have the unique ability in Ontario to grow many different crops. This includes some that are popular with new Canadians coming from South Asia, Asia and the Caribbean.”

ANNUAL TORONTO AREA SALES OF $61M

The project is focused around a variety of crops, including Indian kaddu, Chinese red hot pepper, okra, yard long bean, Asian eggplant, amaranth, fuzzy melon, round eggplant, maca, tomatillo, bottle gourd, daikon radish and Indian red carrot. A study completed in 2010 showed major ethnic groups in Greater Toronto Area spend more than $61 million monthly on fresh produce – predominantly ethno-cultural vegetables, most of which are currently imported to Canada.

“Market intelligence and profitability is important if growing world crops is to be successful in Ontario. Our farmers are good at growing traditional crops, but there has been limited expertise in growing, marketing or selling new crops. This is now changing,” says Dr. VRIC CEO Jim Brandle. “This project is about creating a profitable opportunity for farmers through to retailers.”

Work on the three-year project includes consumer and market potential assessments, analysis of new varieties and crops desired by consumers and retailers, on-farm production trials, taste and quality assessments, and dissemination of production information to farmers.

PROJECT PRESENTATION MEETINGS

A project steering committee includes farmers and researchers, as well as representatives from distribution, wholesale, retail and the ethnic communities.

Three meetings, all starting at 6 p.m., are being held to highlight this year’s trial crops and provide information to interested farmers:

• Aug. 29 at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland Station.

• Aug. 30 at the University of Guelph research station in Simcoe.

• Sept. 7 at J Collins & Sons in Copetown.

Funding for this project is provided in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program. In Ontario, this program is delivered by the Agricultural Adaptation Council.


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