BURGESSVILLE — This year was supposed to be the first year Lindsay Menich made money off her ginseng crop. The cash crop farmer and elevator operator at Burgessville started a five-acre ginseng plot four years ago in Norfolk County, where the sandy soil is suitable for the high-value crop. It went well, so over the next three years she put in three more five-acre plots. Ginseng takes four years to fully mature, so this year would’ve been the first time she could harvest a marketable crop.
Problem is that “There’s virtually no market at all,” she said. Prices, which were as high as $60 per lb. recently, have dropped as low as $9/lb., and even that’s hard to sell. “You can’t even find a buyer.”
COVID-19 restrictions are the biggest and clearest problems but it has gotten worse. Most of Ontario’s ginseng was destined for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. But the protests in Hong Kong, disintegrating Canada-China relationship and the US-China trade war have all eroded the market, said growers association chair Remi Van De Slyke. While domestic markets are still intact, ginseng relies heavily on exports: about 95 per cent of the crop goes overseas, he said. Canada is the third largest exporter of ginseng. Or was.
Van De Slyke farms 60 acres of ginseng south of Tillsonburg. The biggest problem for growers is that buyers from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong used to physically be in Ontario to look at and buy ginseng, he said. They’re gone now.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Ontario, those buyers might not return any time soon.
Problems started back in January when growers here missed out on Chinese New Year, normally the biggest marketing opportunity of the year, Van De Slyke said. As much as 20 per cent of last year’s crop in Canada remains unsold. There are about 150 ginseng growers in Ontario.
The growers association wants the federal government to extend the Advance Payments Program to ginseng growers so they can cover their costs until the market rebounds. Van De Slyke is confident that it will. “We need help to get over the hump,” he said.
judge whether the program has been effective in curbing crime in Saskatchewan but the interest is strong. About 195 rural municipalities in the province have jumped on board.
Zurvinksy said some of the interest was likely spurred by the 2018 trial of Gerald Stanley , a farmer who was acquitted after being charged with the murder of an indigenous man. That incident was sparked by the attempted theft of an ATV from Stanley’s farm.
Zurvinsky said rural depopulation has made farm families feel more vulnerable.
“Farms are few and far between. There isn’t a family on every half-section anymore,” he said. “When I was on a school bus there were 35-40 kids. Now it’s a van with four kids.”