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New report spotlights high-value horticulture

Total value of production from horticultural crops is estimated at roughly $100 million a year

A new report shows Manitoba’s horticultural producers are punching well above their weight when it comes to contributing to the provincial economy.

There are relatively few fruit and vegetable growers, plus those producing sod, other nursery crops such as flowers and trees, and greenhouse operations — yet together their production is worth roughly $100 million annually to the provincial economy.

These farms also pay about $25 million annually in taxes to all three levels of government, generate 1,300 full- and part-time jobs, and pay out about $50 million in yearly wages.

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It all comes from just 231 farms which together span about 9,500 field acres — plus 3.18 million sq. ft. worth of greenhouse space.

The numbers come from the Manitoba Bureau of Statistics report Manitoba Economic Impact Assessment of Current Horticultural Production released in November and revealing for the first time the extent of this exceptionally high-value production in Manitoba.

Why it matters: This is a first-ever report revealing horticultural production as an exceptionally high-value industry produced on fewer than 10,000 acres in Manitoba.

It’s information that shows the value of an industry not taking up much space but generating a lot of revenues for the economy, say provincial industry specialists.

“It’s not like we have a million acres of horticultural crops… but start looking at the multiplier effects on an acreage basis… they’re significantly larger than agriculture in general,” said Tom Gonsalves, vegetable specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

The data, based on averages of the 2011 and 2016 Census of Agriculture, shows there are in total 135 vegetable and fruit farms, 12 farms producing sod and another 84 producing other nursery products such as trees or shrubbery, plus an additional 136 farms reporting greenhouse production.

The MBS report estimates current Manitoba horticultural production includes about 5,000 acres of fruit and vegetables, 2,900 acres of sod, 1,600 acres of other nursery products, plus these greenhouse operations.

photo: Source: Averages from the 2011 and 2016 Census of Agriculture.

These are numbers we’ve not had until now, and it offers an important glimpse of an industry we haven’t known much about to date.

They’ve been asking to get some numbers generated because until now only ‘best guesses’ were available on some of this data, said Anthony Mintenko, fruit crops specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.

“We just didn’t have numbers that we were confident in,” he said.

And while neither he nor Gonsalves call the numbers surprising, per se, given their familiarity with their respective sectors, both say the numbers are certainly notable even to them.

“The fact the total value of production is in that $100-million mark… it was unexpected that it was that high,” said Mintenko.

That total comes from the gross revenues these operations are generating, including $6,000 per acre for fruit and vegetable production, $2,200 per acre from sod production, and $15,700 per acre for other nursery products, $11.50 per sq. ft. in greenhouses.

These are, however, expensive crops to produce, too. Total operating expenditures are estimated at $4,700 an acre of fruit or vegetables, $1,330 an acre for sod production, $13,800 an acre for other nursery products, and $9.50 per sq. ft. of greenhouse area.

Direct operating expenditures required to achieve this level of output are estimated at $80 million per year, with roughly 40 per cent as direct labour costs.

That number certainly shows how key the labour component is for horticultural crops, say the provincial specialists.

“Commercial vegetable production doesn’t happen in Manitoba without a large labour force,” said Gonsalves. “It requires a huge number of employees.”

The report shows the industry overall creating a combination of both on- and off-farm employment, including 900 directly related jobs plus over 400 others in spinoff employment.

A portion of direct and seasonal on-farm jobs are held by foreign workers — findings show one in three are — although the report notes there wasn’t sufficient survey data to estimate total foreign workers.

Vegetable and fruit farms specifically generated on average 6.14 full-time equivalent jobs with 1.33 held by local workers and 2.04 by foreign workers, the report says.

Greenhouse production creates on average 10.2 full-time equivalent jobs, including 4.87 year round and 5.33 seasonal jobs, with 3.42 held by local workers and 1.91 by foreign workers.

The report was commissioned by Manitoba Agriculture and will be used in policy-making for the industry.

The report was supported with funds from Growing Forward supporting its development.

Study data was collected using an online survey of Manitoba horticultural producers, including members of the Manitoba Landscape and Nursery Association, Prairie Fruit Growers Association, and the Vegetable Growers Association of Manitoba.


Revenue and expenditures

Gross yearly revenue from horticultural operation in Manitoba:

  • Veg and fruit $6,000 per acre
  • Other nursery products $15,700 per acre
  • Sod production $2,200 per acre
  • Greenhouse production $11.20 per sq. foot

Direct operating expenditures per acre:

  • Veg and fruit $4,700
  • Other nursery crops $13,800
  • Sod production $1,330
  • Greenhouse production $9.50 per sq. ft.

Source: Manitoba Bureau of Statistics

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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