Self-sufficiency in food within our reach

L’autonomie alimentaire à notre portée

The quebec agri-food industry has the tools to become self-sufficient after the crisis, according to experts, even if the consumers have to adjust to a shortage of certain products from abroad.

REPLACE THE FOREIGN WORKERS

Workers, guatemalans and mexicans in the vegetable Garden Riendeau in Saint-Rémi, in Montérégie at the end of last summer.

In the short term, farmers in quebec will have to find a way to replace the approximately 15,000 foreign workers than they employed before the crisis to come and plow the fields.

“When it is said that without these foreign workers, there is no production of fruits and vegetables in Quebec, this is not an assertion free, that is the reality,” says Jocelyn St-Denis, president of the Association des producteurs maraîchers du Québec.

The Union of agricultural producers is currently working on a program to alleviate the shortage of labour, by appealing to Quebecers in lack of work to come and give a helping hand on the farms of Quebec, said Mr. St-Denis. “It’s going to fill needs on a temporary basis. But when life will resume its normal course and that the people will return to their occupations, the producers are going to be alone, ” adds the expert.

However, with the closure of the borders, the consequences are already beginning to be felt for the farmers who need labour for préplanter their plans in the greenhouse before transferring them to the fields.

“We should feel the impacts as early as the month of July, depending on what is there and what will not “, he says.

Foreign workers from Mexico and Guatemala are expected to arrive by plane during the week.

Focus ON BUYING LOCAL

It will be necessary to encourage local procurement and develop our own businesses in order for Quebec to become more autonomous in relation to its products of first necessity.

“In many sectors, the Quebec would be ready to become self-sufficient. It is sure that it will not produce bananas, but the majority of the products that we consume are relatively simple to produce, ” says Jacques Nantel, a specialist in retail trade, professor emeritus at HEC Montréal.

According to him, the crisis will help to achieve that supplies the most stable are those that come from local suppliers.

“The problem is that for several products of first necessity, it is dependent on other countries. We’re going to have to develop our own producers here, ” says for its part, Benoît Duguay, professor at the School of management sciences of UQAM.

Even if they seem to be willing to encourage local trade, the people of Quebec could however be slowed down in their tracks by the price of the product and the availability.

“It is necessary that the citizen can see that the product exists, and he must be able to distinguish it thanks to a […] If one is online to display simple and easy to understand, the citizen could identify the product,” says Fabien Durif, director of the Observatory for responsible consumption.

PRODUCTS LEAST PRESENT

Consumers should expect that the exotics are more rare in the coming months due to the closure of the borders.

“The countries will prioritize their own populations before exporting. There will be an availability of fruit and vegetables from elsewhere which will decrease too “, explains Jocelyn St-Denis.

We could also see less of québec products on our shelves, or an increase of their prices because of their rarity, raises Sylvain Charlebois, professor in distribution and agri-food policy at Dalhousie University.

“When there is a scarcity in the product, the prices rise. Depending on the availability and scarcity, we can expect that there will be movement of prices, from medium to large, ” adds Jocelyn St-Denis.

This year will be full of challenges for producers, ” he says.

“Are we going to eat more potatoes, carrots and onions this year, and less avocado, tomatoes from Mexico ? We will eat the vegetables of here first, and make sure to be self-reliant among us. ”

GREENHOUSES TO GROW YEAR round

Surplus power could be routed in greenhouses in quebec to face the vagaries of mother Nature.

“It is a request that we have done for several years for the government to make available the electricity surplus at rates that are preferential, affordable, equivalent to what is offered in the United States, when we export,” says Jocelyn St-Denis.

He is of the opinion that there should also be more investment in permanent installations, since the climate in northern quebec does not allow agriculture throughout the year.

“This sector needs electricity, be it large areas or small greenhouses, because there are producers in greenhouses throughout the year, but there are also growers who start their plants in greenhouses early in the season, which have small facilities and that could benefit “, he adds.

Already, many producers are planting their vegetables inside, before transferring in their fields. This process allows to anticipate the harvest.

This would also allow to diversify the products by growing some fruits or vegetables in a controlled environment.

Then, even the consumer can put his.

“It is very possible to see people make small vegetable garden […] After the coronavirus, a lot of people will change their way of doing things to be more self-reliant. The same countries will ensure to be more autonomous. “

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