Ontario tomato farmers angry over 'horrible' pricing deal

Ontario tomato farmers angry over 'horrible' pricing deal

Weeks after the province made the controversial decision to take over tomato pricing negotiations, an agreement between farmers and processors has been reached for the 2017 growing season.

Former minister of agriculture Elmer Buchanan, who was appointed by the Ontario government to lead negotiations for farmers, said the deal is a continuation of the 2016 pricing contract.

"As with any successful negotiations, both sides came to the table and were willing to compromise to reach an agreement," Buchanan explained in a statement. "This resulted in a successful deal that will benefit the industry."

Minister of Agriculture Jeff Leal appointed Buchanan to take over for the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers board of directors.

Farmers are not pleased with the deal, according to tomato grower Francis Dobbelaar, who is also the former chairperson of the Vegetable Growers board.

He said he discussed the agreement with several growers, who describe it as a "horrible" deal. 

"They're upset about it," Dobbelaar said, outlining how the deal is excellent for processors and it never would have been approved by the Vegetable Growers board. 

"They got a real good deal, probably the best deal in North America," he said. 

The president of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Processors Association, Steve Lamoure, disagreed. He credits the agreement and those who arranged it with saving the season.

 "We were within hours of losing significant parts of the growing season," he said. "The changes to the negotiation process was never about price. This was about a working relationship that can protect and grow the industry."

Leal applauded the deal with three major tomato processors ConAgra Foods Canada Inc., Highbury Canco Corporation and Sun-Brite Foods Inc.

"I appreciate their hard work during the negotiating process to ensure a deal was reached for the parties involved," Leal said.