Quebec government announces $2.5 billion to support local food industry
The Quebec government is hoping to give a boost to the province’s food growers in both local and international markets and will invest $2.5 billion over five years to do so.
Premier Philippe Couillard announced the new program on Friday, saying the money put up by the provincial government will be matched by Ottawa.
The major components of the program are aimed at improving the supply of locally-grown products to Quebecers and introducing more environmentally responsible practices, as well as helping to grow Quebec’s presence in foreign food markets. Some money would also go to educating children about where their food comes from and to encourage consumers to buy more locally-grown food.
Norma Kozhaya, chief economist for the Conseil du Patronat, said in order for the program to succeed locally, food prices would have to come down.
"When we promote more local industry, the consumer always has a choice," she said. "At least they will have more information and more access. We hope eventually local industry will also be more competitive and less expensive."
Roughly 500,000 people are employed in the province’s food sector.
The announcement was made at Quinn Farm, whose founder, Phil Quinn, said local family farms would go extinct without government aid.
"What I got out of this is we're going to get help for the next generation," said Quinn. "Help for the fran transfer, for integrative pest management, reduction of pesticides, which is always a challenge for us."
The subject of government aid to food producers has been a sore subject at the ongoing NAFTA renegotiations, with Canada’s dairy industry drawing fire from President Donald Trump. With the food industry making up roughly 8 per cent of Quebec's GDP, Couillard assured farmers they would be supported despite the uncertainty.
“Any result that will keep markets open is good for Quebec. We have Europe now, we’ll have the Pacific zone as well and of course, the U.S. is our main partner,” said Couillard. “Supply management is not some kind of bureaucratic model, it’s a way of life in rural Quebec we want to protect and we insist it’s not a sacrificial lamb at the end of the debates that are going on right now leading, I hope, to a successful outcome.”