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Canadians gobbling up turkey

Cranberries and Christmas trees also rank among top seasonal Canadian exports
In 2020, Canadians consumed seven million whole turkeys, according to the Turkey Farmers of Canada. (Special to Black Press Media)

If figures from 2020 offer any guidance, Canadians will purchase close to three million turkeys around Christmas.

According to the Turkey Farmers of Canada, representing Canada’s 530-plus turkey farmers, Canadians purchased 2.9 million whole turkeys for Christmas 2020. That figure equals 41 per cent of all whole turkeys sold that year. Not surprisingly, sales of whole turkeys had hit another peak around Thanksgiving when Canadians purchased 2.5 million whole turkeys, equal to 36 per cent of sales.

Overall, Canadian households consumed a total of seven million whole turkeys in 2020 with a total weight of 55.3 million kilos and grand a total of 143.8 million kilos of all turkey products in 2020 for a per capita consumption of 3.8 kilo, according to the association.

Christmas is also an important period for Canadian growers of cranberries. In terms of global production, Canada ranks second behind the United States, with Quebec followed by British Columbia as the most important producers in Canada.

According to Statistics Canada, these two provinces account for over 90 per cent of Canada’s cranberry crop, with Quebec accounting for 64.5 per cent and British Columbia accounting for 29 per cent of total production in 2020. While apples continue to lead the fruit sector in terms of tonnage, representing 43.5 per cent of the total production of Canadian fruit in 2020, cranberries became Canada’s second most important fruit crop, surpassing blueberries, which remain Canada’s most important fruit crop in terms of value with almost $274 million in 2020. Cranberries rank fourth in value with $154 million.

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But the industry has seen fluctuations, not only but especially in British Columbia, where growers have had to deal with oversupply leading to lower yields and the rising cost of land in recent years. To appreciate the fluctuations in British Columbia, consider the following. The farm gate value of cranberries dropped by 40 per cent in 2019, only to rebound in 2020. Another factor concerns climate. British Columbia’s mild winters complicate weed control and it has yet to be seen how the flooding in the Fraser Valley, the geographic heart of the B.C. industry, will impact next year’s crops.

Canada is also among the leading global producers of Christmas trees as Canadian growers sold more than 2.2 million fresh-cut Christmas trees to customers around the world, totalling $49.4 million in 2017. Almost all the sold trees went to the United States but some also found their way to more exotic destinations, including several Caribbean nations, Russia and the United Arab Emirates.

But if people around the world unwrap Christmas gifts under trees grown in Canada, Canadians themselves have found it increasingly difficult to secure them in the face of industry trends. The number of Christmas tree farms has dropped to just under 1,900 in 2016 from just under 2,400 in 2011. The area used for Christmas tree cultivation has also dropped from 28,000 hectares to 24,000 hectares from 2011 to 2016.

Experts have also warned about the effects of climate change on the industry while encouraging the purchase of real Christmas trees because their production absorbs carbon dioxide.

And not to be forgotten is the season’s popular beverage, eggnog, of which Canadians purchased five million litres in December 2017. While traditionally associated with the Christmas holidays, sales of the seasonal favourite have started earlier in recent years as producers and retailers have sought to stretch sales.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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