Read the Results

In 2016-2017, the Organic Council of Ontario consulted over 600 experts and stakeholders on the future of the organic sector in Ontario. We wanted to know how to help the sector grow to meet Ontario’s growing demand. In this section, explore the results of our research by scrolling or clicking the headings above.

The Numbers

At most recent count, there are approximately …

950

Primary Farmers

528

Processors

5

Retailers

42

Packers & Co-packers, and

9

Brokers

… certified organic in Ontario.

Organic Businesses

Who Took Our Survey

Not all organic businesses certify.

Only 55% of “organic” farmers in our survey were certified organic.

Many organic farmers are new.

70% of organic farmers had been farming for 15 years or less, 25% had been in organic production for less than five years.

Many “non-organic” farmers are interested in organic.

51% of “non-organic” farmers told us that they have considered transitioning to organic.

Most organic farmers (78%) spend less than $1200.00 annually on certification,

with over one third spending between $600.00 and $900.00 annually.

“ I have been farming this farm organically for three years, but my parents farmed for 40 years organically.”
— Katrina McQuail, Meeting Place Organic Farm

Organic Sales Continue to Grow

$1.6 billion

estimated organic retail sales in Ontario ⁠— and growing rapidly. (COTA, 2017)

66% of Canadians

purchase organic products weekly.

8.4% year-over-year

market growth in Canada for organic food and beverage.

83% of millennials

purchase organic products weekly.

Organic is a Clear Economic Opportunity

75%

of retailers

say that the demand for organic is growing.

Retailers ranked demand for Ontario Organic highest among other niche brands, including Non-GMO, Canada Organic, International Organic, Grass-fed and Local.

25%

of retailers

say it’s growing rapidly.

Retailers identified organic fruits and vegetables and organic meats as the top two product categories with growing demand.

Current Organic Businesses See Organic as a Sound Business Choice

Perceptions of Organic Business Profitability

Organic Premium Value by Product

Grains and Asparagus Over Double

*This is based on respondents' opinions.

Confidence in the Existence of an Organic Premium by Product

Grains and Supply-Managed Commodities Most Certain

*This is based on respondents' opinions.

Barriers to Transition

Farmers

49% Weed and Pest Concerns

Farmers considering transition were most concerned with how they would manage weeds, pests and disease in an organic system.

Insect pressure on fruit is too high in Niagara and the organic disease controls suck. We can’t go organic until our neighbors do.”

45.3% Skepticism about Organic

Skepticism ranges from a general lack of belief in organic standards and practices to concerns with the misuse of the organic claim to the belief that "organic" is just a passing fad.

There are a lot of farmers who say they are organic and sell it for organic prices but are not certified.”

44.9% Transition Period

The Canadian Organic Standards require that no prohibited substances are applied for three years before you can call your products organic.

I think it takes a long time and great expense to transition and I don’t produce enough to make it worthwhile.”

40% Certification Costs and Effort

The cost and effort of certifying are a barrier for some, particularly those new to farming.

We are busy enough on the farm keeping up with book work, rules and regulations. It seems like it would be even more work for organic certification.”

Challenges to the Expansion of Organic

Organic Farmers

57% Access to Labour

Organic agriculture often requires more labour. Finding affordable and skilled labour can be difficult.

We have trouble finding help in farming now — we cannot even contemplate how a larger percentage of organic agriculture could find the help to grow any bigger.”

34% Access to Capital

Lending institutions are often unfamiliar with organic business plans, and/or require backing by risk management programs that are not necessarily adapted to organic practices.

Labour costs are high and so additional staff will not be hired. We are limited by how much the current labour force can physically do (which is also affected by limits to capital investment in labour saving equipment).”

30% Organic Advisors, Training and Resources

“I have struggled most during our possible transition with getting information and straight answers regarding not only the certification process but also about input recommendations.”

I truly believe in many “organic” perspectives and our food system…(but) it feels like an impossibility for me based on current information and financial support systems.”

Other Organic Businesses

Supply and Quality of Ingredients 60% of non-organic & 55% of organic

We need perfect fruit for our dehydration business and any imperfections are amplified when dried. If organic fruit could be grown clean consistently I would be interested.”

Competition from Imports 64% of organic handlers & 10% of non-organic

The unfair rules and regulations from the U.S. competitors able to dump their seeds without documentation.”

Access to Capital 46% of organic & 30% of non-organic

Access to funding and loans often require a rate of return that is unsuitable if not impossible for local, organic businesses.

Access to capital that respects the vagaries of sustainable organic growing. Currently our economic and retail systems are harmful and inappropriate for local organics.”

Certification Costs 50% of non-organic

Cost of certification — we cannot afford it right now but everything is certified organic.”

Top Challenge

2nd Challenge

3rd Challenge

Farmers

Weed/Disease Pressure Risky

Organic Claim Unreliable or Subject to Fraud

Cost and Risk of Three-Year Transition Period

Organic Farmers

Labour Costs/Talent

Lack of Access to Capital

Not Enough Organic Advisors

Handlers

Availability and Consistency of Supply

Certification Too Expensive/Burdensome

Lack of Access to Capital

Organic Handlers

Competition from Imports

Availability and Consistency of Supply

Labour Costs/Talent

Retailers

Price Competitiveness

Consumer Confusion

Availability and Consistency of Supply

Top Priority

2nd Priority

3rd Priority

4th Priority

5th Priority

Farmers

Producer Transition Payments

Organic Inputs in Canada

Certification Subsidies

Subsidized Organic Advisors

Standards Maintenance and Enforcement

Organic Farmers

Subsidized Organic Advisors

Advocacy to the Ontario Government

Promotion of Ontario Organic

Production Training/Resources

Research

Handlers

Subsidized Organic Advisors

Pricing and Market Information

Certification Subsidies

Research

Promotion of Ontario Organic

Organic Handlers

Crop Insurance/Risk Management

Standards Supports/Resources

Producer Transition Payments

Certification Subsidies

Oversight of Imports

Retailers

Producer Transition Payments

Crop Insurance/Risk Management

Certification Subsidies

Standards Maintenance and Enforcement

Promotion of Ontario Organic

CAP Ont Can