The promotion of local purchase and the desire to move towards greater food autonomy are not just pious wishes formulated at the beginning of a pandemic. Word of the Minister of Agriculture, André Lamontagne, who, at the end of his mandate, claims to have taken these files “head on”.
Posted at 7:00 am
Since 2020, in supermarkets, Quebec brands have registered a growth of 17%, according to an analysis that NielsenIQ will present on Thursday, in Drummondville, on the occasion of the 3Y Annual meeting of biofood policy partners organized by Mr. Lamontagne’s department. On the other hand, there are still “challenges” to overcome, according to NielsenIQ, since the origin of food reaches 12Y classification of consumer purchasing criteria. Flavor and promotions take first place.
In a letter published in Press On Monday, some 300 companies, including several working in the agri-food sector, said local buying was in jeopardy. “SMEs feel more than ever the end of the mobilization, so strong and sustained just a few months ago, we can read. The absence of incentives for local purchases, the tight portfolio of clients, the increase in the cost of goods and transportation, and wages that have to compensate for inflation are shared and very worrying experiences. »
In response to inflation, many consumers turn to multinationals to shop at lower costs and maintain a semblance of quality of life.
Extract from an open letter signed by some 300 companies
“I signed this letter so that our elected officials will take the time to sit down and ask themselves the question: what are we doing? “, explains David Côté, co-founder of Loop Mission, known for its juices prepared with imperfect fruits and vegetables. “There really is a crisis coming. The best way to handle a financial crisis is to perk up the local economy. »
According to Marie-Josée Richer, co-founder and owner of Prana, a company that specializes in particular in making almond- or nut-based snacks, “there is no longer any talk of buying local.”
Asked about these concerns, Minister Lamontagne said in a lengthy interview with Press the interest in buying local did not wane. “For the biofood sector, honestly, we have put measures in place that will last,” he says. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a challenge. What we are currently experiencing is a perfect storm: difficulties with the supply chain, inflation, the cost of inputs”, he enumerates, adding in the process that Quebec is still “equipped” to face the crisis.
To support his statements, the minister recalls that he has implemented a national purchasing strategy by the main institutions. Thus, about 46% of the 1,382 public establishments of the health, social services and education networks have established a local food purchase goal. The Minister also recalls that he tripled the budget of Aliments du Québec, giving it $17.5 million. More than 25,000 products already have the organization’s seal for the year 2021-2022, an increase of 15%.
The promotion of greenhouse cultivation is also part of the means put in place to ensure that local fruits and vegetables take up more space on grocery store shelves. In 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture announced its intention to double the area of greenhouses by adding 123 new hectares in five years. Currently, 50% of the goal has been achieved.
Our doubling target is certainly very realistic. Nearly 45% of the greenhouse tomatoes we eat are grown in Quebec. Why wouldn’t it be 60% or 70%?
André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture
Lettuces, cucumbers, strawberries are all products from here that Quebecers can put in their basket throughout the year, he lists. Soon peppers and aubergines will be added to the batch. Now it remains to be seen whether they will be able to compete with products from Ontario, California or even Mexico, which are often advertised at good prices. Nearly 54% of Quebecers would like to buy local products more often, but feel they can’t afford it, according to figures compiled by Aliments du Québec to be presented at the 3Y Annual meeting of biofood political partners.
We certainly feel that [le] purse [des consommateurs] prevents them from voting with their dollars.
Marie-Josée Richer, co-founder and owner of Prana
“Sometimes we will say that it costs more to buy food from Quebec, but the studies we have are that out of 20 product categories, there are 14 where Quebec products are at the same price or less expensive,” argues André Lamontagne.
He also labels this perception that a Quebec product is necessarily more expensive an “urban legend.”
Furthermore, after four years of hard work, André Lamontagne is coming to the end of his term. No one knows the outcome of the elections to be held in the fall, but if his party returns to power and is re-elected, would he like to take over the leadership of the Ministry of Agriculture? To this he replies that it is “the prime minister’s prerogative”.
“The prime minister had in mind the idea of an economic ministry, that’s why he chose me. Sometimes I talk to my colleagues and tell them that I have the best ministry. »
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