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Ontario produce in remission


Chef Loseto returned from a one week vacation in Costa Rica to face the early morning freezing market at Toronto’s Food Terminal. Not surprisingly, the farmers have fled leaving small offerings of apples and root vegetables from their cellars. On the import side however, things looked pretty good with an abundance of nice looking cauliflower, brussels, rapini, fennel and kale mostly from California. Persimmons and pomegranates are about to disappear and the Chef will be replacing them with tropical fruits.

There are lots of California blood oranges available but the better European blood oranges have yet to appear in our market this season. The Chef found out that the Canadian market has become the last choice for European shippers because Canadian prices have fallen due to price competition from the Americas.  Europeans may be  permanently withdrawing from our market feeling as they do that Canadians will not pay a premium for what they consider their better produce. The Chef notes that the only fruit coming from Italy has been kiwis and a few mandarin oranges. The mandarin oranges, like Italian grapes, are very flavourful but full of seeds. It is a shame because Italian fruits taste so much better than California ones. A good example is Italian cactus pears which have vanished this year.

In contrast, everything from the US is relatively cheap compared to what it has been.

Mangoes from Australia and India are available with crazy-high prices. And Japanese sweet melons are going for about $100 per melon.

Agricultural prices are always interesting to watch. Beacon Securities released a report on a listed Canadian company, Village Farms (VFF-T). This company grows produce in greenhouses in North America. Beacon states that it used to have healthy EBITDA margins of 10% years ago but this margin has fallen to 5% currently. In order to raise margins, Valley Farms will begin growing marijuana in its greenhouses where it expects to expand margins using this product to 50%. This kind of bold outlook serves to justify the enormous market valuations of listed marijuana stock prices. But as companies thunder into this space, one has to ask why margins will not, through the normal mechanics of demand and supply, soon return to 5%. It all looks like a huge bubble – at least in the case of the pure agricultural segment of this industry.

The Chef informed us that black trumpet mushrooms from Oregon have started with Oregon chanterelles about to finish. Blue foot mushrooms from France and yellow foots from BC are on offer but the Chef believes they lose any distinctive taste when cooked.

Ontario squabs are back. We said in December that we thought that the Chef’s squab appetizer was the best thing on his menu.

Halibut is done and the Chef is replacing it with mid Atlantic bass and glacier west coast bass. The Chef is using Spanish octopus which he likes a lot.

We said last month that you should try the farmed Nova Scotia Atlantic salmon, which replicated the taste of the salmon that went missing for years when Atlantic salmon stocks ran out. In Toronto, Fisherfolk bring it in. This firm is basically a wholesaler but they will tell you how and where to buy it if you call and ask them – humbly. 416-562-8819.