Tobacco crop 10% short of target

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It's official, Ontario tobacco growers have finished the 2013 crop year nearly 10% short of target, due to adverse growing conditions during the spring and summer.

With the last of the loads transported to the buyers, the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers Marketing Board reports that 243 licensed growers in Norfolk, Brant, Oxford, Elgin and Middlesex counties brought in a contracted harvest of 56.2 million pounds.

That's 5.8 million pounds less than the contracted volume of 62 million pounds set for this year.

“For the most part, the shortage is weather related,” tobacco board chairman Fred Neukamm said in an interview.

He attributed the shortfall to a cold spring and September, rains that delayed planting and frost in some areas. They all contributed to a shorter growing season, Neukamm said.

Despite those perils, he said, “we've received several comments from the buyers that the quality of the crop was good, with cleaner grades than average and many grades were slightly above average.”

Growers and the board are now looking to 2014.

“As we look at the U.S. it appears that demand is strong and could be even higher there, and what happens there often happens here.”

It's difficult to expand operations very much, he said, because there is a shortage of infrastructure for tobacco production in the U.S. and Canada.

“We are at our limits right now, so any major expansion in crop size will require investment in more infrastructure.”

Growers will learn the wishes of the buyers by early January, and then will have to make decisions. The two-month licensing period starts at the beginning of January.

Neukamm said that over the past three years in the licensing system that replaced the silent auction growers have become accustomed to the short window for to negotiate contracts with the buyers and apply to the board under licence.

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The Ontario Beekeepers Association has released a video demonstrating the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on a third generation beekeeping family.

“The video shows how the family's future in the business is threatened by the impact of this pesticide,” the association says in a release.

“It shows first-hand the devastation that is being wreaked on bees, pollinators and our ecosystem. Find out what you can do.”

Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sa6JuI0CDc0&feature=youtu.be

The video comes at a time when several farm groups are raising a concern about the effect of neonicotinoid pesticides on cultured honeybees and wild pollinators alike.

In the video, beekeeper Tom Congdon, third-generation operator of a business that his grandfather started near the village of Cottam, outside Leamington, in 1916, relates how the pesticide “is forcing us right out of the business.”

On behalf of the association, Congdon contends that neonicotinoids are used on 100% of corn crops and about 80% of soybean acreage, accounting for the two largest cash crops in southern Ontario.

Concerted use has caused the bee population to collapse by 80% in some areas, with queen bees dying everywhere, Congdon says.

The association is calling for the government to ban neonicotinoids.

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GUELPH – The 33rd annual Guelph Organic Growers Conference and Expo will run Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at the Guelph University Centre.

The Organic Expo will run concurrently on Feb. 1 and 2.

The theme of this year's conference is Catching the Wave.

Information on registering, the workshop schedule and displays is available on the conference website at http://www.guelphorganicconf.ca/attending/overview/.

michael-allan.marion@sunmedia.ca

 

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