After one of the best seasons in 10 years, Quebec growers now face a more normal year, complete with a cold, wet spring and rain that just keeps coming.
Despite a two-week delay on some crops, summery temperatures have growers anticipating a good season, said Andre Plante, general manager of the Quebec Produce Growers Association, St. Leonard.
“Some producers didn’t get into the field until the last week of April or beginning of May,” Plante said. “But prices are good. There’s no pressure on price at the moment.”
The low Canadian dollar, trading around 92 cents, should also help make Quebec produce more attractive to U.S. buyers, he said, and there’s a huge advantage on freight rates compared to buying from the western coast.
Onions and potatoes
Quebec onion and potato growers have few complaints with the market.
“The price is really good for us right now,” said Pascal Guerin of Sherrington, Quebec-based Les Jardins A. Guerin.
“We’ll have onions until mid-July then a shortage for a week or two until the new crop begins in August,” Guerin said.
“I think it’s good, so grocery stores have time to sell all the old stock and start fresh,” he said.
Gabriel Isabelle, vice president sales and development for C. Isabelle & Fils, said the rainy spring made it difficult to plant potatoes, onions and carrots, but quality storage potatoes continue to command a good price.
The family farm, with 800 acres of potatoes, is 20 minutes from the New York border.
Rocky start for lettuce
Lettuce producers including Sherrington-based Veg Pro International, said they had a rocky start but caught up quickly, though rain remained a challenge.
“We anticipate a good solid season and hope the markets won’t go down too much,” said Pierre Dolbec, vice president sales and procurement.
“In a normal year New Jersey is usually first, then we come out,” Dolbec said. “This year it seems that everything’s going to come out at the same time.”
Veg Pro’s onion and carrot growers, who typically harvest in early to mid-July, now expect harvest from late July to the first week of August.
Mario Cloutier, marketing director of Lavel, Quebec-based Les Productions Margiric, predicts peppers will be on time in mid-July, a welcome surprise, and his cantaloupes could be ready around July 20.
Martin Cousineau, director of sales, procurement and operations for St. Constant, Quebec-based broccoli producer Jardins Cousineau, planned his first harvest the week of June 22 and expects to have broccoli until early November.
On the wholesaler side, Jean-Francois Laverdure, president of Montreal-based JB Laverdure, said volumes are up and demand is good, particularly for his Novobio organic line.
New facilities, more space
While Laverdure has been back in his new building since January, Montreal-based Chenail Fruits and Legumes is in the midst of a year-long renovation, Montreal-based Canadawide has moved into a new building and Montreal-based Courchesne Larose is planning to once again double in size.
“You definitely see a change in the industry,” said Antonio Bono, vice president of Chenail. “There’s a need to be more up-to-date to meet all the different regulations being imposed on us, which make us more efficient.
“While it’s good to ensure that products are traceable when they get on the shelf, “ he said, “it’s all very complicated and new and we have to get used to it.”
On the streets of Montreal, meanwhile, the sun has finally brought residents out of hibernation and out to restaurants again after a slow spring, said Gilles Motard, director of logistics and operations for major foodservice distributor Hector Larivée.
“During the Grand Prix (June 6-8), we had our best week ever as a company,” Motard said, “and the mayor has announced an agreement to keep the race in Montreal for the next 10 years.”
With the arrival of long-awaited Quebec strawberries, the local deal can officially begin.