Sunday, June 1, 2008


The last canning plant in Canada to use Ontario-grown fruit is closing. What this means is that as of this summer, you will no longer be able to buy canned fruit that was grown in eastern Canada. CanGro, the multi-national corporation which owns the facility in St. Davids near Niagara Falls, has decided it is more profitable to move the entire operation to China, and will begin shipping Chinese-grown fruit to the Canadian market under their Del Monte brand.

This puts about 200 farmers in the Niagara region out of business, with a production of over 7000 tons of fruit annually. They no longer have a market for their produce. Hoping to save the industry in Canada, one farmer offered to purchase the CanGro factory if the fruit-canning contract would be returned to the local plant. He offered to put up $5 million dollars, but needed the Canadian government to match that amount to make the deal. The plant owners agreed to the deal. They agreed to give back the canning contract and met with the local farmers and government representatives. The Canadian government only had to pony up $5 million, and the Ontario fruit industry would be back in business.

But the Canadian government already had a proposal of their own: they were offering $30 million dollars for the farmers to rip up their fruit-bearing trees and burn them! I'm not making this up.

The deadline for the cannery purchase approached, and on the final day, there was still no reply from the Ontario's Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Sandra Pupatello. She was on a plane, on her way to China to attend meetings on deepening trade agreements with the Chinese. And much of the equipment from the plant had already been removed and was on its way to China to be used in the operation over there.

It would have cost $5 million for the government to help buy the plant and save the Ontario fruit industry, which in turn would pump a lot back into the Canadian economy, i.e. "economic development". Or they could pay $30 million dollars to rip the fruit industry out of Ontario by the roots, give it to China, and wipe out any possibility that the industry could recover in Canada, destroying thousands of acres of mature fruit trees in the midst of a world-wide food shortage.

They chose to spend $30 million tax-payer dollars to ruin Canada's fruit industry.

Sanda Pupatello, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Trade, came on CBC radio, trying to offer an explanation.  She tried to say "The door isn't closed" on the Ontario fruit industry, that the government was "very interested" in finding ways to keep the industry in Canada, and that they were continuing to explore various options. She said that the deal to purchase the CanGro factory wasn't appropriate because the government felt they needed more consultation with "a broader spectrum" of representatives from the business sector and other interested parties. She indicated that the business plan wasn't as thorough as they wanted it to be.

Farmers are business people.  The large multi-national corporate "business sector" like Del Monte and CanGro care more about the profit margins they can realize by sending it all overseas.  Who's input should we really be listening to?

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