Food independence: a bite to eat in California

Food independence: a bite to eat in California

For ten years, Quebec strawberries have carved out an enviable place in Quebec supermarkets in the summer season, affirms the management of the farm Onésime Pouliot, even swallowing the shares of Californian products.

According to the manager of the Île d'Orléans berry farm, Guy Pouliot, between June and September, the major food chains prioritize red fruits from Quebec over those from our neighbors to the south.

This year, however, due to the heat in the summer, strawberry growers here have had problems keeping up with demand. This is currently forcing some chains to turn to California.

“Mother Nature made us a jambette. Our returns are not what they should be, concedes Pouliot. There is a lack of fruit. Otherwise, it's always our strawberries at this time of year, since 2010, ”adds the one who produces 2 to 2.5 million pounds of strawberries per year.

With its 180 acres of land, the Onésime Pouliot farm specializes mainly in the production of strawberries and raspberries. These products are sold at Metro, Empire (Sobeys) and Loblaw. They are also found on the shelves of retailers on the United States side.

New technics

For raspberries, Mr. Pouliot stresses that new production techniques, particularly under shelters and in pots, will make it possible to improve and improve harvests over the coming years. Quebec is however still far from being able to dislodge American products in this industry.

“We do not yet have the areas and volumes to do so,” explains the businessman. A bit like the fall strawberry, we can imagine that the raspberries will do so in the next six or seven years, ”he continues.

For the whole berry sector, Quebec is 60% self-sufficient (with the exception of grape juice), according to 2018 data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Competition from Mexico

The management of the Onésime Pouliot farm, which employs nearly 300 people, including several foreign workers, perceives the strawberry producers in Mexico as “complementary players” to their business.

“They are not competitors. They start producing in September, until June, ”replied Mr. Pouliot, questioned about the rivalry in the world of berries. He argues that his main competitors are rather installed in sunny California.

In fact, Quebec produces about 1.5% of the strawberries that are eaten in North America, Florida 8.5% and California 85%.

As for the issue of food self-sufficiency, the businessman believes that it will be difficult for Quebec to become self-sufficient in the berries with the tools currently available, in particular the financial advantages and the various government programs.

SOME NUMBERS

► The Onésime Pouliot farm produces 2 to 2.5 million pounds of strawberries annually

► Products are sold at Metro, Empire (Sobeys) and Loblaw

180 acres of land

► Nearly 300 employees during the peak season, including several foreign workers

► Located on Île d'Orléans

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