Increased supply for local tomato producers during restaurant closures

Local tomato producers said they are dealing with an increased supply since the pandemic especially with the lack of dine-in service at restaurants.

Distributors that deliver to restaurants are no longer taking big orders from producers.

“They’re doing basically zero to restaurants from us,” said Stuart Horst, Manager of  Elmira’s Own Tomatoes.

Elmira’s Own has been in the greenhouse business for 15 years and grows two acres of tomatoes year-round. The manager calls this season the perfect storm.

“Exceptional light levels in the last month and brought on a lot of product,” he said. “It’s putting a lot of strain on me to find markets for the product.”

Horst was forced to drop his prices again. He said he is selling tomatoes to grocery stores for about 50 per cent less than it would have been pre-pandemic.

Staff at Vincenzo’s in Waterloo have noticed the price break and have passed it onto customers.

“We’ve probably drop the price is the customer is almost $1.50. Sometimes two dollars a pound,” Tony Caccioppoli said, the co-owner at Vincenzo's.

Not all tomatoes are created equal, according to food economist Dr. Mike Van Massow with the University of Guelph..

“It’s not always easy to divert access tomatoes to another use,” Massow said.

He said producers are forced to get creative if they’re faced with the hardships of excess product.

Elmira’s Own is branching out to other markets like Sault Ste. Marie.

“We're hoping to start shipping up there in the next week,” said Horst.

He’s also hoping local consumers continue to shop local.

“It’s much healthier than something that is green out of Mexico,” Horst said.

Vincenzo’s staff said their customers often choose local tomatoes, like Elmira’s Own, when shopping at their store.