(Feb. 19, 11:50 a.m.) Florida agriculture officials hope bringing a team of Canadian produce buyers to south Florida production areas will yield more Florida produce sales.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is sponsoring the group that includes representatives of the Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based Sobey's Inc. supermarket chain, Sysco and the Toronto Ontario Food Terminal to visit some of the state’s grower-shippers March 9-12.

The tour, co-sponsored by the New, Orleans-based Southern U.S. Trade Association and Faye Clack Communications, Mississauga, Ontario, is designed to help improve Florida’s trade relations with Canada by showing the buyers the quality and variety of agricultural products available for exporting to that country, said Kimberly Coker, marketing representative with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Canada is the state’s largest export market.

The tour agenda includes visits to growing and shipping operations of Sam S. Accursio & Sons Farms Inc.; Brooks Tropicals Inc.; Dunn Bros. Farms, a member of Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers Co-op; and Five Bros. Produce Inc., all of Homestead. Oviedo, Fla.-based Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc.’s Belle Glade, Fla., operation and Pero Vegetable Co. LLC, Delray Beach, Fla., also are scheduled on the tour.

“These visits are very important to Florida,” said Tommy Torbert Jr., Five Bros.’ president. “We have good product and it’s good to get that out there and increase our business. These people are going to buy the produce out of here anyway, but such visits are good for whoever they’re going to do the business with, and it helps.”

Coker said this is the first Canadian mission to visit Florida growers since 2006.

“These guys in Canada love to come in and actually get a feel for what’s going on,” she said. “Bringing them here is a plus for Florida agriculture because it opens doors for new products and new growers that they may not have dealt with in the past. They’re looking for new product to put into their stores.”

While Canadian buyers purchase the basic commodities, such as green beans and sweet corn, Coker said many are interested in sourcing the specialty and organic produce grown in south Florida.

The team also includes buyers from the Dominion Citrus Ltd., Toronto; Tomato King Ltd., Toronto; Bell City Brands Ltd., Brantford, Ontario; and Sysco Food Services of Ontario Inc., Peterborough.