03/03/2014 07:47 EST | Updated 05/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Vegetable Costs To Rise Due To Extreme Cold, Heating Costs

Some vegetable prices could be higher at the grocery store this spring.

Greenhouse growers in Ontario hope higher prices for their produce will offset their high heating bills this winter.

Don Taylor, chair of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Association, says the latest cold snap right now is particularly costly.   

The greenhouses need to be warm because the cucumber growing season is well underway and the tomato and pepper growing seasons are just starting.

"Because they're planted, you need to maintain temperatures in the greenhouse," Taylor said. "If anything even slightly, slightly higher than you would in production season because the plants are obviously young, tender, and growing."

Taylor says the cost of natural gas has spiked.

"I know homeowners are having to pay, too ,but growers are certainly having to pay anywhere from double what the usual price would be to sometimes even more than that," Taylor said.

At the consumer level, Toronto customers, for example, have experienced a nine per cent hike on bills for gas-heated homes and a 23-per-cent rise in costs for people who live in electrically heated residences.

Taylor said some growers have watched their bills increase by as much as 400 per cent over last winter.

Taylor said growers have also had to deal with an increased amount of damage heavy snow and ice caused to greenhouses.

"Really, the largest challenge is the fuel," Taylor said. "Fuel consumption is up. It varies a lot greenhouse to greenhouse but on average it's up 30 per cent."

According to Jamie Leblanc, director of energy supply and policy for Enbridge Gas Distribution, this winter in Ontario has been "about 22 per cent colder" than it was at the same point last year.

Taylor said the consumer may end up helping offset the costs.

"We are hoping to get a little higher price for the product," Taylor said. "It's costing more to produce it. The consumer may well see higher prices for fresh produce."

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