Food self-sufficiency in Quebec | From the field to the basket

They stretch as far as the eye can see, on either side of the country lanes. What grows in Quebec’s fields? To what extent does agricultural production meet local demand? Some data on the subject.

Posted at 5:00 am

Judith Lachapelle

Judith Lachapelle
The press

What we produce, what we eat

To measure Quebec’s food self-sufficiency, analysts use several indexes…none of which are perfect. This is used by the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) and compares Quebecers’ “apparent consumption” to local production.


PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, PRESS ARCHIVE

Maple syrup is an important export product.

A ratio greater than 1 means that production exceeds demand – this obviously applies to maple syrup, a major export product. “Apparent Consumption” is data compiled by Statistics Canada that assesses the availability of a food item in the country (not specifically Quebec).

On the other hand, surplus production does not necessarily cover all consumer needs. For example, pork is imported to meet demand for certain cuts, such as ribs, even though production far exceeds demand. The same applies to apples, of which several desired varieties do not (or only little) grow in the province’s orchards.

About Food Sovereignty in Quebec

“I don’t think things have fundamentally changed since 2020. People are more aware that food supply chains may be a lot less resilient than might have been thought. The abundance we see in supermarkets is illusory in many ways. We have seen that everything can quickly become precarious in a pandemic. Inflation also shows that this reliance on global chains can become very costly. We are still in the early stages of anchoring food security in agricultural policy. There are policy statements such as a desire to force public canteens to source supplies from Quebec producers, or the fragmentation of farmland to allow for the establishment of smaller farms. But it will take much stronger political will. »

Sébastien Rioux, Assistant Professor at the Department of Geography at the Université de Montréal and holder of the Canada Research Chair in the Political Economy of Food and Well-Being

They occupy the field


PHOTO IVANOH DEMERS, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Green peas occupy an important place in Quebec’s fields.

What grows in those faraway fields? Lots of corn, of course, but also vegetables that we don’t always think are important, such as green peas. Anyone who has sown peas in their garden knows it: the plant takes up lots and lots of space to produce its little green balls.

Harvest area in hectares, 2021

Vegetables (harvested area, in hectares, in 2021, excluding potatoes)

  1. Sweetcorn: 6378
  2. Green peas: 3548
  3. Green and yellow beans: 3406
  4. Carrots: 3353
  5. Lettuce: 2792

PHOTO STÉPHANE CHAMPAGNER, ARCHIVE SPECIAL COLLABORATION

At 31,921 hectares, the blueberry is the fruit that occupies the largest area in Quebec’s fields.

Fruit (acreage, in hectares, in 2021)

  1. Blueberries: 31,921
  2. Apples: 5281
  3. Cranberries: 4833
  4. Strawberries: 2137
  5. Grapes: 845

Crops (harvested area, in hectares, in 2021)

  1. Tamed Hay: 631,400
  2. Soybeans: 371,000
  3. Grain corn: 357,100
  4. Wheat: 95,200
  5. Silage maize: 73,400

The case of corn


PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

In the vast majority of cases, the corn grown in Quebec’s fields is grain corn.

It colonizes fields as far as the eye can see, producing far (much!) more ears of corn than any fan of fried corn can ever eat… Because technically, in the vast majority of cases, the corn grown is grain corn, a variety eaten by livestock is, by the way, like silo maize. Last summer, Quebec produced 3.4 million tons of grain corn, 53 times more than sweetcorn.


PHOTO DAVID BOILY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

A corn on the cob

Corn (production in Quebec in 2021, in tons)

  • Grain corn: 3,419,125
  • Corn silage: 2,833,644
  • Sweetcorn: 63,877

Grain corn (distribution of production in Quebec in 2018 in tons)

  • Animal feed: 2,700,000
  • Industrial processing (ethanol, etc.): 440,000
  • Human Food: 80,000 (including 50,000 for a liquor factory)

The heavyweights

If field productivity were measured by the number of tons of food produced per hectare, onions, carrots, cranberries and apples would fall heavily into the basket.


PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

In 2021, about 113,042 tons of onions were produced for commercial use in Quebec.

Vegetables (marketed production 2021 excluding sweetcorn and greenhouse vegetables, in tons)

  1. Onions: 113,042
  2. Carrots: 112,785
  3. Cabbage: 80,321
  4. Lettuce: 69,402
  5. Beets: 25,013

PHOTO PATRICK SANFAÇON, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Cranberry production reached 99,418 tons in 2021.

Fruit (marketed production 2021, in tons)

  1. Cranberries: 99,418
  2. Apples: 95,982
  3. Blueberries: 16,143
  4. Strawberries: 13,419
  5. Grapes: 2825

Field crops (production 2021, in tons)

  1. Grain corn: 3,419,125
  2. Tamed Hay: 3,255,500
  3. Corn silage: 2,833,644
  4. Soybeans: 1,101,708
  5. Wheat: 344,818

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, LA PRESSE ARCHIVE

Potatoes weigh heavily in agricultural production in Quebec.

The Heavyweight Champion

potato (area)

735,545 tons

18,841 hectares harvested

Sources: Statistics Canada, MAPAQ

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