Ontario Food Terminal pushed to find more revenue, modernize

Food terminal review aims to find ways to improve its operations

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The province has provided guidance to the Ontario Food Terminal after a review of its operations found it is missing some business opportunities and that its location limits its ability to expand and supply the rest of the province.

The review was conducted by consulting firm MNP. Ernie Hardeman, the minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs sent a letter to Ken Knox, the chair of the board of the food terminal outlining actions he sees that need to be taken.

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Why it matters: The Ontario Food Terminal supplies a significant amount of the independent buyers in the Toronto region and provides a market for Ontario produce.

The minister announced earlier this summer that the food terminal will stay at its current prime location near the convergence of The Queensway and the Gardiner Expressway, just west of downtown Toronto.

However, the review says that it is on a smaller site compared to other major North American food terminals.

“The main challenges as it pertains to the location is the relatively small size of the land and current site configuration, which will restrict OFT’s ability to expand as needed,” the report’s executive summary said.

There’s a need to serve the rest of southern Ontario, and the report looked at three options, moving, purchasing a second location, or employing a spoke and hub approach with the Toronto terminal as the hub.

The report also identified areas that need improvement including:

  • space utilization
  • digitization of transportation and product management systems. The lack of tracking meant it was difficult to fully quantify the OFT’s operations.
  • replacing infrastructure, especially building is needed, but will be challenging because large buildings already exist on the site and their reconstruction would interrupt current operations.
  • the food terminal is funded as “self-sustaining” versus being able to make a profit. That limits the ability of the food terminal to fund capital projects, growth and improvements.

Hardeman had a someone similar set of priorities for the Ontario Food Terminal board of directors and management, but also had other suggestions, especially around expanding the farmers’ market area of the terminal.

They include:

  • continue work towards improvements to be made to the Farmers’ Market area of the Terminal, including working with the Toronto Wholesalers Association on the significant investment announced earlier this summer.
  • explore opportunities for expansion at the terminal including identifying where legislative changes would be required to facilitate those changes (for expanding products offered for sale)
  • develop a long-term asset management and capital improvement plan;
  • work towards improving technology on site, such as adding Wi-Fi service, which would enhance e-commerce and better record transactions.
  • evaluate whether there is demand for additional office space and whether this could be an opportunity for additional revenue.
  • review the terminal’s operating hours to see if changes could benefit buyers and sellers.
  • improve the terminal’s governance, with revised policies and procedures that could benefit its day-to-day operation. This includes looking at the current enforcement model to make sure rules that protect buyers, sellers and consumers are being followed by all.
  • make recommendations on an expanded board that would include representation from wholesalers, farmers market tenants and buyers.

About the author

Editor

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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