Tomato Impasse "Totally Unnecessary"

Agricultural economist Philip Shaw doesn't believe it the breakdown in talks over the 2017 tomato crop between processors and growers is necessary — and will only create uncertainty in a critical commodity market for the region.

When no deal had been reached in negotiations by the March 1st deadline, Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal fired the negotiators for the farmers Friday

He says tomatoes are the backbone of local agriculture.

"It's vital to the agricultural economy and the bigger economy in Essex and Chatham-Kent, so it's a huge issue and it certainly would impact the economy for this coming year," says Shaw.

He says money shouldn't be the issue.

The Canadian dollar being at 75-cents [US] is a huge advantage and it seems to me that the processors here never really negotiated in good faith this year with the traditional collective bargaining that we generally have," says Shaw. "This is totally unnecessary, with a long history of collective bargaining with everybody making money in the tomato industry in southwestern Ontario, there's really not a lot of excuse for this other than somebody might just want cheaper tomatoes."

Up until Friday morning the farmers had been represented by negotiators from the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers District 1. Agricultural minister Jeff Leal has appointed former agriculture minister Elmer Buchanan to take over the role.

Former District 1 Chair Ron Van Damme contends the problem was with one of the three main producers, who did not participate in the negotiations. Van Damme says this was year two of a five-year Memorandum of Understanding which had an option to have the matter resolved by binding arbitration.