Industry Insight
Rethinking the Canadian produce conundrum, preserving our national food independence and security; A path towards self-sufficiency & self-reliance embarked by Canadian greenhouse farmers.
Since 1990, policy makers and business leaders have been discussing food independence and security. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified our reliance on imported produce, thereby increasing our produce trade deficit. It is shocking that our rich country lacks a fully comprehensive national food policy that meets domestic challenges of a steady food supply chain. Though food supply chains were strained in 2020, resilient Canadian farmers and food manufacturers and processors fed us through the economically challenging year. That chaotic year shed light on how Canada should protect its food supply chain by curtailing its dependence on produce imports.   
Even though Canada was a net exporter of agri-foods in 2020–with a positive food trade balance of  $1.689 billion– we have seen a fruit and vegetable trade deficit in the last 5 years. In 2019, our produce trade deficit was  $9.313 billion for fruits  and  $1.769 billion for vegetables , for a combined $11 billion produce trade deficit with imports rising by 3.9%. With cold Canadian winters restricting produce seasonality, Canadian farmers had the answer all along; greenhouses. Canada had the highest number of greenhouse produce production in North America, but by the early 1990’s, Mexico & USA surpassed us. The solution to reducing produce import dependency lies within the construction of greenhouses to lessen the supply gap.   

The impacts of the pandemic opened the realm of possibilities for revisioning the Canadian food system. A trend in Ontario is the growth in greenhouses, at  5% annual growth. Whilst outdoor seasonal production is capped to the average 180 frost free days, greenhouse production eliminates that restriction. Greenhouses allow growth and harvesting year-round, as a result of the investments made by some of Canada’s largest greenhouse operators. What better way to guarantee a steady supply of produce than to build these greenhouses in a cold climate that accommodate domestic demand and curb the implications of produce import dependency.   
The pandemic heightened the need for both government and citizen to renew their interest and spark debate about domestic food security. 80% of Canadians said supporting fruit and vegetable production is a high priority. Relying on imports will cause interruptions to overseas produce growers and have a dramatic effect on domestic produce availability. In mid-2020 we witnessed Quick Serve Restaurants (QSRs), such as Subway & Wendy’s,  changing most of their produce supply to greenhouse farmers, to avoid inconsistencies and disruptions from traditional outdoor farming.  
Ontario greenhouse farmers are scaling up their operations and as per one industry executive, “we could grow much more than we do right now, and I think we’re headed there”. There are countless acres of greenhouses being developed and one greenhouse farmer in specific, based out of Kingsville in Ontario is expanding with over 200 acres in North America. The federal and provincial governments must research and diversify greenhouse production capabilities to increase the variety of crops grown in a greenhouse. 

One thing is clear: greenhouse produce production can have a profound economic gain. Canada could become a self-sufficient and independent agri-foods producer, thereby increasing trade balance and GDP. This industry is in its infancy and the untapped market can create thousands of jobs towards a steady produce supply for domestic consumption.   

Matcom as Partner in Constructing Ontario Greenhouses
Matcom is a heavy equipment moving, and a full-service multi-trades industrial machinery solutions company that has been a trusted partner in the Ontario market for over 45 years. We are proactively assisting our clients with their challenges through research and hard work. Matcom is perfectly positioned to address the needs of local Ontario Greenhouse Producers. Whether it is welding, fabrication, HVAC, machinery installation, or mechanical pipping, Matcom offers first class services in catering to a clients every need.