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Chatham-Kent witnesses strong tomato harvest

11/10/2019 - Press release , François-Xavier Branthôme - 2019 Season
Conagra ran more tomatoes through the plant than expected

 In the rural areas of Chatham-Kent, this year’s wet spring wasn’t enough to hamper the tomato harvest in the region. “We’ve had a very good quality year,” said Simon Hogervorst, plant manager at the Dresden’s Conagra Foods processing plant. “There was a little bit of risk at the start of the year because planting was late for everybody.

The constant rain that persisted through much of May and June meant farmers had to wait getting their seeds in the ground, but some ideal growing weather throughout the summer made up for it. “We had some favourable weather over the summer, which has given us good quality, low disease, high yield and high tomato productivity,” Hogervorst said. All those high quality aspects of the incoming tomato crop made for an easier process at the plant, said Hogervorst, allowing Conagra to run more tomatoes through the plant than they expected. “We’ve now been able to exceed all of our production targets.” He said the quality of tomatoes is above average this year.

Hogervorst said the conditions that lead to the strong harvest included having the right number of hot days, the right amount of moisture once the plants were in the ground and pretty stable temperatures. A few days before the end of the harvest, Conagra expected to come in at over their original forecasted goal of 105,000 tonnes. About 50 per cent of the tomatoes are processed into paste that’s used in Hunt’s tomato paste and pasta sauce, with the other 50 per cent becoming Aylmer’s diced, whole and stewed canned tomatoes.

A total of 23 farmers in the region send their tomato yields to the Conagra processing plant. During this time of year, the plant bumps up their workforce from around 120 employees to approximately 450 in order to meet the increased labour demand at the plant. 
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