It’s a familiar story. Tough competition from California and Mexico, unfavourable weather and increased labour costs to $12.50 per hour on May 1, 2019, are pushing berry producers in Quebec out of the market. That’s a significant trend given that Quebec is the number one producer of berries in Canada – about 56 per cent of national production.
"In recent years, we have seen a real decrease in the number of producers in Quebec, and it is clear that the factor increasing the minimum wage is important since more than 50 per cent of production costs are dedicated to labour," explains Jennifer Crawford, executive director of the Association of Strawberry and Raspberry Producers of Quebec.
“The labour cost is very problematic for us right now and we are finding that growers must reduce acreage, reduce number of employees and/or consider less labour-intensive production,” Crawford told The Grower.
In a recent study of the Quebec industry, statistics show that the number of growers has been decreasing in the last decade, but the acreage has been increasing, specifically of those growers with 10 hectares or more.
As of 2018, there were 518 Quebec growers of raspberries producing on 591 hectares (1460 acres). There were 507 growers of strawberries producing on 2,333 hectares (5762 acres). Of these, 124 growers were cultivating day-neutral strawberries on 435 hectares (1074 acres).
Louis Gosselin, president of Ferme Francois Gosselin told FreshPlaza.com that “with the increase in minimum wage above the cost of inflation, it is the profit margin that decreases directly each year.”
“The prices have been essentially the same for the last four years and it is very difficult to increase them since we are in direct competition with California fruits," he adds.
The association has requested assistance from the provincial government for the short term, but the industry’s long-term viability depends upon more cost-efficient production techniques, according to many producers.
Source: FreshPlaza.com May 24, 2019 article