Local tomato growers face tough decisions after Heinz announcement

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Chatham-Kent’s $25-million field-tomato sector faces an uncertain future after today’s announcement that Heinz Leamington plant will close in June of next year.

Approximately 40% of the 7,000 acres of tomatoes planted is contracted to Heinz, according to figures supplied by Chatham-Kent agriculture specialist Kim Cooper.

“Growers do have the opportunity to sell to Cangro in Dresden or elsewhere, but right now its anyone’s guess as to exactly what will happen,” he said

Last year, more than 300,000 tonnes of tomatoes were grown locally, making Chatham-Kent the largest tomato producing area in Canada.

Heinz employs 600 full-time unionized employees, has 200 more non-union workers and hires as many as 500 seasonal workers during the tomato-harvesting season.

Cooper said the closure in similar in scope to Chatham’s loss of the Navistar plant in June of 2009.

“Heinz is Leamington’s largest taxpayer and a major user of utilities,” he said. “There is no doubt this represents a major blow to that community. My heart goes out to them.”

Cooper said tomato growers will be able to switch to other crops, however, next growing season may be somewhat difficult. “Farmers will have to examine their fields individually to determine what switch to make, however, they are a resilient group,” he said. “They know the ups and downs of the agriculture and they still have some of the finest soil in the world.”

Comments

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Where is Heinz going to obtain the tomatoes from now and to where have they decided to move their facility, if they are moving? That would be an informative addition to this news piece.

  2. Why was this decision made? Is it becuz no one is buying tomato products made by Heinz? Or that they've decided to buy tomatoes elsewhere? If the latter, from where? Are they closing and moving? If yes, to where. The answers to these questions would have made this article much more informative.

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