Canadian farmers return to vegetable patch as currency slumps

Fri Feb 26, 2016 12:11pm EST
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By Rod Nickel and Nia Williams

WINNIPEG/CALGARY Feb 26 (Reuters) - Canadian farmers are cashing in on the highest vegetable prices in years, helped by the country's weak currency and soaring costs of U.S. imports that have made them unexpected winners in a bearish commodity world.

Soft wheat and canola prices may diminish Canadian farm incomes by 9 percent this year. But it is the best of times for carrot and beet growers, part of a niche industry best-known for stocking farmers' markets.

"Per acre, there's nothing quite like it right now," said Sam Hofer, who grows carrots at Dinsmore, Saskatchewan. "You can make good pocket money off 50 acres (20 hectares) of land."

At Emile Marquette's farm near Perigord, Saskatchewan, his 20 acres of beets may bring 10 times more net profit per acre than canola. That is due to beets' higher output per acre as well as sky-rocketing prices.

The year ahead looks to have "huge potential," Marquette said.

Fresh vegetable and fruit prices jumped 18 and 13 percent respectively in January year over year, according to Statistics Canada.

The cost of imported U.S. produce has spiked as the Canadian dollar, now trading around 74 U.S. cents, fell 16 percent last year. Excessive rain in some U.S. regions has added costs.

Marquette is part of a grower group that sells vegetables to Saskatchewan-based Federated Co-operatives Limited. The growers and co-op set price increases for 2016 of five to 10 percent on local produce that already fetches a premium.   Continued...