Jun 5, 2017Ontario greenhouse growers concerned with proposed wage increases
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) on June 1 announced an immediate concern for the ongoing viability of their sector.
“While greenhouse vegetable growers agree there is a common interest in sharing in a healthy economic well-being, the recent announcement relating to significant increased minimum wages combined with proposed changes to the employment standards, signals the imminent closure of many family-run greenhouse farms,” OGVG said in a news release.
“As with any business, greenhouse farming requires a stable business climate that allows for the responsible planning of future investments. For a sector still recovering from an onslaught of regulatory burden and government-imposed costs, such as cap and trade, paying an additional $3.60/hour for each worker is an insurmountable hurdle,” the release stated.
The Leamington, Ontario-based OGVG estimates the additional expense will cost the sector over $30 million next year, and another $40 million the year after that. Specifically, this represents a 35 percent increase in labor costs.
“No business can absorb this type of significant impact without consequence,” the release stated. “The short term consequences will include the loss of small farm operations, reduced availability of local produce and an increased presence of imported produce of the grocery store shelves. OGVG would encourage the government to undertake a full economic impact assessment prior to implementing this type of drastic change.
“Our sector is already reeling from the most recent impacts of cap and trade,” said George Gilvesy, OGVG chair and “this ‘piling on’ of costly policies will undoubtedly put an end to an enviable growth story for Ontario greenhouse vegetable production.”
“For a capital and labour-intensive sector struggling to remain competitive, the latest announcement will make it even harder to stem the flow of greenhouse investment to neighboring U.S. states and Mexico, according to the release.
“Labor makes up the largest single cost in the production of greenhouse vegetables and changes of this magnitude make it impossible to plan and invest in the future” said Gilvesy. “We need the government to work with us to ensure further greenhouse growth and investment remains in the province.”
OGVG is responsible for licensing all growers, packers and marketers of Ontario greenhouse tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. Currently, OGVG has over 200 growers, representing nearly 2,900 acres of high-tech hydroponic greenhouse production.