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Despite remarkable greenhouse sales in 2020 – uncertainty lies in the year ahead

After the whirlwind that was 2020, the big question for Canada’s greenhouse sector is whether 2021, the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables, will follow suit. Overall greenhouse sales rose 9.4% last year, with the main star fruits and vegetables. In 2021 however, producers may face some significant headwinds. Rising costs and a higher loonie may prevent a year of similar sales growth.

COVID’s boost to greenhouse revenues

In a year marked by the pandemic, greenhouse fresh vegetable receipts rose at their fastest pace since 2012 and for the eighth consecutive year, up 12.3% to $1.8 billion in 2020 (Figure 1). That came after a good year in 2019 when sales rose 5.0% to $1.6 billion. Once COVID hit, the fast pivot to alternative consumer avenues such as curbside pickup and online shopping helped push farm cash receipts up a whopping 19.8% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2020. It was a harbinger of things to come in Q2 and Q3.

With 23.9% growth in hectares between 2015 and 2020, greenhouse fruit and vegetable production capacity rose to 1,809 hectares last year. Production rose for peppers and cucumbers, two of the three fresh vegetables we produce on a large scale, while tomato production, the largest in terms of value and volume, dropped 3.2%. Tomatoes led in sales growth (12.1%), followed by cucumbers (+9.4%) and peppers (+7.3%), accounting for 92.5% of total sales. 

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