A cartoon in an agriculture newspaper summed up spring in Quebec this year.
It showed a grower in a yellow raincoat “catching” floating strawberries from a boat with a fishing net. The caption: “First strawberry harvest.”
“Growers who saw it weren’t laughing,” said Caroline Thibault, executive director of the Quebec Strawberry and Raspberry Growers, Longueuil.
The province’s wholesalers weren’t laughing, either.
“The percentage of issues we have on vegetables arriving on our dock right now is much greater than any normal season,” said Guy Milette, vice president of international and business development for Montreal-based Courchesne Larose Ltd.
And not just from Quebec, he said, as bad weather hampered production up and down North America’s East Coast and West Coast and Alaska posted warmer temperatures than Montreal.
“It’s a challenge because 20 years ago there was a price for everything — you could discount your product $2 or $3 and you always found a customer for it,” said Milette.
“Today, the product is worth $25 and if not it’s dead — there’s no middle ground.”
The late spring meant crops arrived on the market at the same time, said Andre Plante, general manager of the Quebec Produce Growers Association, St. Leonard, which made it hard to keep prices up.
On June 14, he said leaf lettuce and romaine were selling for $7 a case.
“To have a little profit we can’t go under $10 for romaine,” he said.
For Mario Cloutier, sales manager for Lavel, Quebec-based Les Productions Margiric, which grows lettuce, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and melons, the season started cold, wet and miserable.
“It’s the complete opposite of last year,” Cloutier said June 20. “The fall-like temperatures of the last seven days have delayed everything, and customers do not understand.”
Though the temperatures zoomed above normal June 23, another week of rain was forecast for much of the province.
Between the showers most growers, including Margiric, managed to plant their fields.
“The spring went very well, with everything in on schedule,” said Pierre Dolbec, vice president sales and procurement for VegPro International, Sherrington, Quebec, “but we hope Mother Nature eases up because the rain could cause mildew problems for our baby lettuces, and it’s challenging for the guys in the field.”
Growers of hardier root vegetables such as Guillaume Henri, vice president marketing for St-Lin des Laurentides, Quebec-based GNC Farms Inc., had parsnips seeded and celery root planted by June 20 and were “transplanting and seeding big time” to get rutabaga, beets and carrots in the ground.