Past sea­son a chal­lenge for tobacco grow­ers

The Delhi News-Record - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL-AL­LAN MAR­ION

On­tario tobacco grow­ers will de­liver to buy­ers in this month the fi­nal loads of their 2016 har­vest, which de­clined for a third straight year.

Ac­cord­ing to Min­istry of Fi­nance records, 195 flue-cured tobacco grow­ers in Nor­folk, Brant, Ox­ford, El­gin and Mid­dle­sex coun­ties had li­cences to plant tobacco on 15,353 ap­proved acres with an ex­pected har­vest of 41.34 mil­lion pounds.

Those fig­ures rep­re­sent a de­cline from the 2015 crop, in which 241 grow­ers were li­censed to plant a crop on 21,670 acres, with a 57-mil­lion-pound har­vest. It’s the third de­cline in a row.

The min­istry also li­censed 38 grow­ers to plant non flue-cured tobacco on 927 acres for a har­vest of 2.6 mil­lion pounds. Tak­ing flue­cured and non-flue-cured crops to­gether, the num­ber of grow­ers and their to­tal crop is still down sig­nif­i­cantly.

Ac­cord­ing to records, 2013 was a peak year after a ma­jor buy­out a few years ear­lier of grow­ers and quota un­der the old On­tario Flue­Cured Tobacco Grow­ers’ Mar­ket­ing Board and a move to in­de­pen­dent con­tract­ing and grow­ers li­censed un­der the min­istry.

That year, 243 grow­ers planted a col­lec­tive 23,000 acres of leaf for an ex­pected har­vest of 62 mil­lion pounds.

Not only were the num­ber of op­er­a­tions and the col­lec­tive har­vest down this year, but grow­ers faced chal­lenges from unco-op­er­a­tive weather. Lit­tle rain and hot weather over pro­longed stretches of time forced grow­ers to ir­ri­gate more.

Haldimand- Nor­folk MPP Toby Bar­rett, the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive critic for agri­cul­ture, food and ru­ral af­fairs, said that many tobacco grow­ers he has talked to com­plain of lower yields.

“There is just so much diesel and so much ir­ri­gat­ing you can af­ford to use when you have the kind of drought they faced this year,” Bar­rett said in an in­ter­view.

He said he has yet to see a re­sponse to a let­ter he wrote ear­lier this month to Fi­nance Min­is­ter Charles Sousa after nearly a dozen tobacco grow­ers were each is­sued $2,500 fines for plant­ing above their ap­proved acreage.

Bar­rett said in his let­ter that there are dis­crep­an­cies in the GPS mea­sure­ments of some crops. And he noted that grow­ers were ac­cus­tomed to a sys­tem in which they would get no­tices dur­ing mid­sum­mer when their plant­ings ex­ceeded ap­proved acreage and were given a chance to do su­per­vised cut­downs of over­ages.

The sys­tem changed this year, and re­sulted in grow­ers just get­ting no­tices and fines.

“We had a lot of back and forth with the min­istry be­fore the let­ter and I ex­pect we’ll have more yet,” said Bar­rett.

There is just so much diesel and so much ir­ri­gat­ing you can af­ford to use when you have the kind of drought they faced this year.” Toby Bar­rett, Haldimand-Nor­folk MPP

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