MPP Bill Walker says he wants the Minister of Agriculture to dedicate a portion of the $40 million budgeted for food processing toward the revitalizing of Ontario’s apple industry, most of which is in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and the Southern Georgian Bay area.
Walker made the request recently during question period at Queen’s Park, as well as by way of a formal letter, which he hand-delivered to Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal this week.
“Our apple growers have faced challenging times over the past years and they’re looking to revitalize the industry by shifting to new varieties of apples,” Walker says. “With the Liberal government’s fifth political junket in China quickly approaching, it seems only fair that it should be strengthening our food growers here at home and helping Ontario apple growers regain some of their lost market share.”
Walker says China is Ontario’s second-largest trading partner in the world and destination for Ontario foods. The problem is that Ontario’s production has decreased over the years by about 30 per cent, and it’s now the largest importer of fresh apples.
“Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and the Southern Georgian Bay area have the ideal climate for apple production,” Walker explains. “So there is indeed a big opportunity to grow our apple industry so that we’re able to produce enough apples to supply our own market needs first, as well as to increase our export prospects and to create direct and spin-off jobs while strengthening and sustaining this important agricultural partner.”
Walker says Ontario is currently lagging behind other provinces, a number of which have either implemented or are in the process of implementing an Industry Revitalization Program for their growers.
“I was pleased to see the Liberal government dedicate funds to food processing but disappointed that none was allotted for our food growers,” he says. “If we’re not growing local food, then whose food are we processing?”
With the increased global demand for food products, the Liberal government should be positioning our local food growers to take advantage of the demand.
“They promote a ‘Grown in Ontario’ approach, so I am challenging them to put their own words into action,” Walker says.
“We produce the best-tasting apples and the Minister should be utilizing a portion of the $40-million fund to facilitate the development of Ontario’s own apple revitalization plan and be a champion for Ontario’s apple industry,” says Walker.