(July 26) VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Acknowledging a small decline in grower members, the new head of B.C. Hot House Foods Inc. said he plans to expand sourcing of hothouse tomatoes beyond Canada as he works to improve trade relations between U.S., Mexican and Canadian shippers.

The start of the 2002 season saw the organization losing its status as the exclusive marketer of British Columbia hothouse tomatoes.

David Smith began his job as B.C. Hot House Foods’ president and chief executive officer June 23. Smith succeeds Andy Smith, who resigned May 31 to spend some time with his family, similar to the departure of Kevin Doran, the former marketing executive involved in the anti-dumping suits who stepped down this spring, said James Donaldson, B.C. Hot House Foods’ director of marketing.

“Some of the issues they faced (regarding the anti-dumping case) during the last couple of years probably took a toll on them,” Donaldson said.

David Smith’s appointment came a few days short of a month after the final chapter in the yearlong anti-dumping battle between U.S. and Canadian hothouse tomato growers. A Canadian trade tribunal ruled June 26 that U.S. tomatoes had not hurt Canada’s tomato industry.

“It was a dogfight,” he said. “Everyone spent a tremendous amount of energy and money in a process, which ended back where we started. There was a lot of disruption in everyone’s business not knowing which markets would be accessible and the duty rates. No one got any benefit.”

Four of B.C. Hot House Foods’ 60 growers left the group and started their own marketing cooperative called Global Greenhouse Produce Inc., Delta, at the start of the season.

A couple of other growers started marketing through firms in the Leamington, Ontario, production district, Smith said.

“Our production and volume will be down slightly due to the growers who moved out,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s turning out to be a fairly good year for growers in volume and pricing.”

Smith said he plans to retain grower members by improving marketing and sales. To supply its customers outside of B.C. Hot House Foods’ season, the company plans to add U.S. and Mexican growers. The British Columbia greenhouse season runs March through November.

“We will have to have other production zones that cannot be obtained in Canada,” he said. “Our board has already started preliminary work on that. It’s something we will build over time.”