OAG Annual Report
October 31, 2023 - Download the PDF
COMMENTS FROM THE CHAIR
It’s been another interesting year for Ontario’s apple growers. Climate conditions have challenged us again in some growing areas of the province. The two unwanted perils of frost and hail were experienced by some growers. However, the apple crop proved to be resilient and was harvested with excellent size, flavour, and colour. Our July crop estimate predicted a smaller crop than last year, but as the summer continued with adequate rain, and a perfect sunny and warm September, the crop got larger. We are estimating the 2023 crop to be 8.7 million bushels which is up 0.5% from the 2022 crop and up 11% from the 5-year average. In addition to our large crop, some of our competitors, such as Washington, also have large crops. We are always watching for their impact on our market. High transportation costs and favorable exchange rates can act as deterrents for businesses exporting apples into our market.
The cost of production continues to be a major issue for apple growers. Input costs continue to rise, including the annual increase to the minimum wage. The cost of borrowing money has also had an impact on capital and operating costs and so efficiency in our orchards has never been more important for us to be profitable. This year in partnership with OMAFRA, we have updated the Cost of Establishment and Production, a valuable document for those operating an orchard or those looking at starting an orchard. A copy will be sent to members and available on the web site.
The effect of inflation is felt by everyone - businesses and consumers alike. Consumers continue to buy and support local, but the price is the main factor as they stretch their shrinking dollars. It’s imperative that we continue to raise the profile of Ontario apples in the marketplace and in partnership with the Ontario apple marketers. We appreciate their collaboration with the OAG and continued efforts to market and sell Ontario apples. Unfortunately, despite some strong years, there is now a sharp market decline for processing apples. Both juice and peeler apples have taken a downturn with many processors drastically reducing volumes needed.
Recently the Minister of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, Lisa Thompson, has recently announced two funding programs of relevance to the apples sector. On October 30th, she announced replant funding for Ontario apple, tender fruit, and grape growers. The program intake opened on November 20th and growers could apply for a maximum of $50,000. On November 20th, Minister Thompson and federal Minister McCauley announced funding for technology and equipment projects up to a maximum of $100,000. Both programs are being funded through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
The OAG organized a very successful and well attended Tree Fruit Tech Day at Hedges Apples in late June. The goal of this event was to showcase new equipment and services and to demonstrate these new products to growers and stakeholders. The focus was on orchard efficiency and labour savings. Most equipment and services that were shown are available in the marketplace now, however there were a few new robots that are still in development.
Promotion and research are the two main areas for the OAG, and we are fortunate to have received funding – federal and provincial – to help fund these activities. I encourage you to read the promotional report and a summary of the research findings in this Annual Report.
The past couple of years, the OAG Board has examined the Farm Products Marketing Act Regulations under which we operate. The OAG was formed in 2004, and now is the time for a full review to ensure that your organization is structured in a meaningful way that respects the needs of our changing sector. The Board made a proposal to our members in June and held a vote to gauge support changing the definition of ‘producer’; introducing term limits for Directors on the Board; and amending an advisory committee. The OAG made a formal request to the Farm Products Marketing Commission to begin implementation of these changes. As this is a regulation change, it will take some time and we’ll advise you when they are in place.
It has been my pleasure to be your Chair for the past 4 years. I will be stepping down in December, passing the baton forward. The best part of this job has been working with great people. I decided when I became chair that I would have a collaborative approach with Kelly Ciceran and my vice-chair, Brian Rideout. Not only have we had many serious conversations about the issues presented to us, but we have also had so much fun. This approach has worked very well, and we are still friends after 4 years - even with Covid thrown in. I had a couple of goals for my tenure; encouraging women to serve on the board and modernizing some of our governance regulations. I feel fortunate that both goals have been met to some extent.
Ontario apple growers should be very proud of the way our board functions and the caliber of the board members. Everyone gets along and we are a board that deals with lots of issues in a very productive way.
I thank the Board of Directors and the Committee Reps for their continued participation and for offering various perspectives on the many issues that we tackle. To our manager, Kelly, a big thank you for another year of great work on behalf of all apple growers. And to her staff - Larissa and Kelle – thank you very much for your hard work this year. As a Board, we appreciate the cohesive staff team who work collaboratively with the Tender Fruit Board, and many other partner organizations.
Previous Annual Reports: