At the start of the year, beef producer Patrick C. Collin from Saint-Nérée-de-Bellechasse was ready to give up everything and sell his farm. However, with the pandemic, the farmer feels the tide is turning.
The sale plan was shelved. Rather than managing a downturn, the pandemic increased his business volume, which allowed Mr. Collin to consolidate jobs.
“My plan was to sell my farm. We've been running at zero or at a loss for years and reinvesting money. I was a street hawker for Le Journal de Québec for five years, in addition to having my farm and another job outside during the day. Every day it started at 3 a.m. I had two children through that, ”says the 37-year-old producer.
Despite his best efforts, Mr. Collin no longer saw any encouraging prospects until COVID-19 highlighted the importance of encouraging local buying.
In addition to selling organic beef in the short circuit, Mr. Collin grows vegetables for around sixty families in the region. This year, the producer says he is facing increased demand.
“It's stimulating for the future of the local market,” he says.
“Even if we feel the enthusiasm, we have a hard time believing that it will last long. If the customer's choice remains at the level of price exclusively, it might be difficult to get by, even though personally, I don't think it costs a lot more to eat local foods, ”he says. .
Sales on the rise
The demand for Quebec beef is there for good, according to other stakeholders. Between January 1 and June 30, sales of Quebec beef, displaying the Bœuf Quebec seal, increased by 150% at IGA Vive la bouffe. Since September 2, products sold under this name are also available at Maxi.
In 2008, Quebec breeders produced nearly 220,000 head compared to 80,000 today.
“There has been a very big decrease. For all kinds of reasons, we were less competitive and less organized in the industry. It was difficult to find our place in the market, ”said Jean-Sébastien Gascon, general manager of the Société des parcs fattening du Québec.
According to Mr. Gascon, COVID-19 disrupted supplies in North America forcing even players like Cargill to temporarily suspend operations at its High River, Alberta slaughterhouse, which had repercussions until the other end of the country.
“The big players had a hard time supplying the grocery stores that turned to smaller players, including players from Quebec, which meant that links were forged which continued thereafter. », Said Mr. Gascon.
According to him, three times as many steers are transformed in Quebec now compared to last year.
“We were 'forced' to speed up a bit. Our goal is to meet the demand of Quebecers and rebuild the industry. For us, it's candy. Developing a project when the demand is there is positive ”, added the CEO.