Local purchasing and food autonomy | Interest never fades

Stimulating local purchasing and the desire to move towards greater food autonomy are not just pious wishes formulated at the start of a pandemic. Word from 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

Nathaelle Morissette

Nathaelle Morissette
The press

Since 2020, Quebec brands have registered a 17% growth in supermarkets, according to an analysis that NielsenIQ will present Thursday in Drummondville, on the occasion of the 3and Annual meeting of biofood policy partners organized by the department of Mr Lamontagne. On the other hand, according to NielsenIQ, there are still “challenges” to overcome as the origin of food on the 12and ranking of consumer purchase criteria. Taste and promotions come first.

In a letter published in The press On Monday, some 300 companies, including several in the agri-food sector, said buying locally was at risk. “SMEs are more than ever feeling the end of the mobilization that was so strong and persistent just a few months ago, we can read. The lack of encouragement to buy locally, the tight customer portfolio, the rise in the cost of goods and transportation, salaries to offset inflation are all shared and deeply disturbing experiences. †

In response to inflation, many consumers are turning to multinational corporations to buy at a lower cost and maintain a semblance of quality of life.

Excerpt from an open letter signed by some 300 companies

“I have signed this letter so that our elected officials 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. “A real crisis is coming. The best way to cope with a financial crisis is to encourage the local economy. †

According to Marie-Josée Richer, co-founder and owner of Prana, a company that mainly specializes in making snacks made from almonds or dried fruit, “buying locally is no longer the key.”

Asked about these concerns, Minister Lamontagne said in a lengthy interview with: The press interest in buying locally did not diminish. “To be honest, we have taken measures for the organic food sector that are long-lasting,” he says. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a challenge. What we are currently experiencing is a perfect storm: the supply chain issues, inflation, the cost of inputs,” he sums up, adding that Quebec is still “equipped” to deal with the crisis.

In support of his comments, the Minister reminds us that he has introduced a national strategy for purchases by large institutions. For example, nearly 46% of 1,382 public institutions in the health, social services and education networks have set a local food purchase target. The minister also recalls that he has tripled the budget for Aliments du Québec, to $17.5 million. More than 25,000 products have now been certified by the organization for the year 2021-2022, an increase of 15%.

Greenhouses

Promoting greenhouse horticulture is also part of the resources that have been deployed to ensure that local fruits and vegetables take up more space on supermarket shelves. In 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture announced its intention to double the greenhouse area by adding 123 new hectares in five years. 50% of the target has now been achieved.


Photo Martin Chamberland, THE PRESS

André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture

Our target of doubling is certainly very realistic. Nearly 45% of the greenhouse tomatoes we eat are produced in Quebec. Why wouldn’t it be 60% or 70%?

André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture

Lettuce, cucumbers, strawberries are all products from here that Quebecers can put in their baskets all year round, he sums up. Peppers and aubergines will be added to the batch soon. 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 locally more often, but feel they can’t afford it, according to figures collected by Aliments du Québec to be presented on the 3and Annual meeting of biofood policy partners.

We definitely feel that [le] wallet [des consommateurs] prevents them from voting with their dollars.

Marie-Josée Richer, co-founder and owner of Prana

“Sometimes we will say it costs more to buy food from Quebec, but the studies we have are that out of 20 product categories, 14 are where Quebec products are the same price or less expensive,” says André Lamontagne.

He also qualifies this perception that a Quebec product is necessarily more expensive as an ‘urban legend’.

Moreover, after four years of hard work, André Lamontagne is approaching the end of his mandate. No one knows the results of the elections to be held in the fall, but if his party comes back to power and he is re-elected, would he want to take over as head of the Ministry of Agriculture? To this he replies that it is “the prerogative of the prime minister”.

“The prime minister had the idea of ​​an economic ministry in mind, so he chose me. Sometimes I talk to my colleagues and tell them I have the best service. †

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