Soaring fertilizer prices, stifling competition, ill-adapted aid programs… A lauritian farmer calls for vegetable gardeners to survive the crisis.
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“It’s a crisis. I wouldn’t have said that two or three years ago. If that doesn’t change, there will be a lot of mental stress at the end of the year,” says Pascal Lecault, President of Jardins Vegibec, in Oka.
at protocolthe businessman insists: he’s still suffering, but his margins are melting like snow in the sun, and farmers smaller than him and under $20 million in revenue are going through a real ordeal.
Since the fall of 2021, prices of their inputs to farmers have skyrocketed by as much as 50%, which the Union Agricultural Producers (UPA) says will leave them with a $1.5 billion bill by the end of the year. .
“We sell zucchini at the same price as 10 years ago. Just take a look. It’s not looking good while our production costs have skyrocketed,” he sighs.
Today, his 20-pound box costs $10. It sold for $8 20 years ago, he illustrates. Not to mention the plain container, which went from 60 cents to $2.10 a piece.
In addition to the fertilizer prices that have exploded since the war in Ukraine, competition from Ontario, California, Mexico and even Europe is playing spoilsports by becoming more and more aggressive.
“When there’s a shortage of cauliflower in the middle of summer, they get it from California or Spain. As if the world couldn’t go a week without cauliflower, that’s completely ridiculous,” he notes.
With Ontario’s asparagus bagged in favor of Quebecers earlier this season, Pascal Lecault did like others and resigned himself to destroying a lettuce crop to avoid selling it at a loss.
“We lost the equivalent of 26,000 boxes of lettuce. We could not determine a price. We’re being offered $8 per box while just the container is $4.25,” he laments.
Lead by example
While he welcomes the Legault government’s ambition to invest in greenhouses for food autonomy, he doesn’t see it as a panacea.
“Why don’t we subsidize refrigerators to store more fall vegetables?” he wonders.
“Greenhouses are all well and good, but once everyone starts making tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, there will eventually be no prizes for them. [acceptables]’ says Pascal Lecault.
According to him, the state also needs to roll up its sleeves to buy Quebec groceries whenever possible.
“The government should look at their own purchases in hospitals,” he concludes.
►The National Strategy for Purchasing Quebec Foods envisages that by 2025 all public entities in Quebec will prioritize local food in their procurement.