Finally local fruits and vegetables: greenhouse production is growing rapidly in Quebec

Finally local fruits and vegetables: greenhouse production is growing rapidly in Quebec

Eating Québec fruits and vegetables all year round is becoming more within our reach thanks to the accelerated development of greenhouse cultivation, which is beginning to diversify. And while prices may be higher than imports, consumers are on board.

• Read also: $46 million awarded to Ferme d’Hiver to quadruple its production

Myriam Fredette operates a small 5,500-square-foot strawberry greenhouse and sells her winter fruits every day for $14 for a 1.5-liter basket from her stand in Montérégie.

“It is definitely more expensive than imported strawberries, but the quality is better; we pick the fruit when it is ripe”, says the woman who is courted by grocery stores, but whose entire production finds buyers in her kiosk.

The winter strawberry is one of the emerging fruits in indoor cultivation in Quebec, stimulated by government aid of almost 100 million dollars until 2025. Objectives: double the area of ​​greenhouses and ensure the food supply. From 120 hectares in 2020, the cultivation area increased to 180 hectares last year.

In order to produce 13 million kilos of strawberries and replace 10% of imports from California and Mexico in a few years, Ferme d’Hiver has opted for vertical production, in facilities where the climate, light and heat are controlled at the same time. 100%. The company received public and private financing for $46 million in December to quadruple its production.

“We want to keep prices as low as possible, so we have to increase performance. The more we produce, the more competitive our prices will be,” explains Alain Brisebois, President and CEO.

price pressure

Winter Farm’s 850-milliliter basket of strawberries retails for a suggested price of $5.99, but nothing would stop a grocer from going above that. In Savoura, which has just doubled its strawberry production to 6 hectares, the 300-gram basket sells for between $4.99 and $6.99. Producing at a competitive price in a market flooded with products from California and Mexico is a constant challenge.

“There are two elements that we will never control: winter and labor costs higher than in Mexico, where a farm worker earns five dollars a day,” said André Michaud, a spokesman for Savoura and president of Agro Québec.

“It costs more to produce in Quebec. On the other hand, there is less distance to travel and we can offer fresher and higher-quality products”, points out André Mousseau, president of the association Les Producteurs en serre du Québec (PSQ).

With improved knowledge and technologies, then with government help and the return of preferential electricity rates, greenhouse growers are realizing productivity gains. However, consumers would not benefit as much.

“It is who pays who decides the prices and we don’t have much of a game with the supermarket chains. The prices given to growers for their crops have dropped between 15 and 20% from 2021 to 2022, but that’s not all at the grocery store,” laments André Mousseau.

  • Listen to the economic column by Yves Daoust, editor of the Money section of the Journal de Montréal and the Journal de Québec, at the microphone of Richard Martineau on QUB-radius :

gain strength

The association Les Producteurs en serre wishes to promote groupings to facilitate marketing. Currently, Quebec’s greenhouse fruits and vegetables are rarely featured in food chain promotions, André Mousseau notes, because a single grower can’t necessarily meet demand. Hence the importance of imitating Ontario with producer groups.

“There are penalties for producers if they don’t deliver as much as requested, so the more volume we make, the better we will meet demand and the chains will favor Quebec products more,” André Mousseau believes.

Diversify the offer

Québec growers’ market shares in the greenhouse fruit and vegetable niche were 30% in 2020. Last year they rose to 50%, and the 80% target should be surpassed by 2025, making Quebec more self-sufficient in terms of food. Tomatoes represent 46% of Quebec’s production.

“The greenhouse industry is young here. Savoura was born at the end of the 1980s. Tomatoes are where we have the most knowledge and that’s why everyone makes them: it’s less risky”, observes André Michaud.

The arrival of peppers, eggplants, lettuce and other varieties will also promote greater autonomy for Quebec. Iceland has already grown bananas in greenhouses… so who knows what the future holds?

Greenhouse vegetables and fruits grown in Quebec

AREAS



Photo courtesy of Toundra


Photo courtesy of Mirabel Lettuce


  • Others (strawberries, herbs, eggplant, etc.): 17 hectares


Photo courtesy of Savoura

MAIN PRODUCING REGIONS

  • Monteregie: 24% of the areas
  • Laurentians: twenty%
  • Central Quebec: 13%

NUMBER OF COMPANIES PRODUCING GREENHOUSE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES IN QUEBEC

  • 2019: 499
  • 2020: 547
  • 2021: 625

FOUR LARGE COMPANIES GENERATE 80% OF PRODUCTION

  • Savored: tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries
  • Hydrohouse: lettuce, peppers, cucumbers
  • Demer: tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, aubergines, raspberries
  • Royal Greenhouses: Tomatoes

* Data from the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 2021

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