From a release
Guelph – Yesterday’s announcement of the Heinz plant closure in Leamington, Ontario was a shock to Ontario agriculture. The decision to shut down this 104 year-old institution will directly impact the 740 employees, dozens of farmers and thousands of seasonal workers in the surrounding tomato industry.
“This devastating news comes at a time when the Premier has challenged the Ontario agri-food industry to create tremendous new growth opportunities,” says Mark Wales, Ontario Federation of Agriculture president. “It’s vital the Ontario agri-food industry work with government to develop a strategy for domestic food processing so Ontario agriculture and food production continues to thrive, drive economic activity and meet Premier Wynne’s challenge to increase growth.”
The planned closure of the plant by June 2014 leaves little time for impacted producers whose livelihood depends on more than 5,500 acres of processing tomatoes grown within 100 km of the Leamington plant. Heinz previously reported that approximately 98% of tomatoes used in Heinz ketchup in Canada are grown in the Leamington area, feeding this second-largest Heinz facility worldwide.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) knows an immediate transition plan will be required for these primary producers. The OFA will reach out to other producer organizations to explore new opportunities to keep this land in agricultural production and safeguard the economic stability of this important rural community. According to a recent Ontario agri-food economic study, Ontario’s food processing sector purchases the majority of their products from Ontario farmers. The Economic Contribution of the Ontario Farm Sector by JRG Consulting Group reported Ontario’s food and beverage processing sector, including the Heinz plant, generates $21.3 billion towards the province’s annual GDP.