Ottawa: Local farmers suffer after bumper crop

A few area farmers are in a tough spot thanks to the record-high temperatures this summer.

But unlike others who saw their crops decimated by the heat, some farmers are having trouble for the opposite reason.

Cucumbers and tomatoes thrive in the type of weather the city saw recently, making for a bigger harvest than usual. But because foreign producers such as Mexico also had an optimal growing season, the competition has been fierce.

Unfortunately for Ottawa farmers, foreign growers have lower costs and can sell their products for less.

For Gloucester-based farmer Pierre Abboud, owner of Sole Produce, a huge crop of cucumbers should have meant a successful season. Instead, cheaper produce from outside of Canada are putting a serious dent in the bottom line of his operation.

"That's basically what's really killing us," Abboud said of the lower production costs in other countries. "This year the weather was very good, we had way extra product on the market (and) that made things worse."

Abboud has already had to drop the price of his baby cucumbers by as much as 40% and while he won't say exactly how much money he has lost this year, he calls the drop "significant."

"We cannot get enough money to cover our costs," he said.

Coming up with a plan to counteract the losses is difficult, said Abboud, now faced with the option of cutting back on production or selling his crop for next to nothing. Neither are particularly appetizing options.

"It's a catch-22," he said.

During a typical growing season, producers can expect different companies to have various levels of success. Often, the weather will be great in one area, while other farmers will have a tougher go of it. The farmers don't wish poor weather on each other, but that swing is what keeps the market from spiking one way or the other, said Abboud.

"You always have bad weather here, bad weather there, and that's what makes production (competitive) and makes the prices steady," he said.

At this point, the future is at best murky for Abboud's operation, and the farmer admits any decision he makes will be "like taking a shot in the dark."

"It's a really tough decision to make," he said.

Bills still need to be paid, and banks don't have much sympathy for down-on-their-luck farmers.

"You don't pay these bills, banks, they don't care, they will come and seize your property and send you home packing," he said.

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