Quebec food purchasing strategy: benefits for whom?

Quebec food purchasing strategy: benefits for whom?

The implementation of a national strategy for purchasing Quebec foods is excellent news, proclaim producer Marie-Chantal Houde and the president of the UPA de l'Estrie, François Bourassa. However, it will be necessary to ensure that small producers have access to calls for tenders, and that intermediaries do not abuse this new gain in power, they believe.

Share September 22, 2020 Updated September 23, 2020 at 8:56 a.m. Share Quebec food purchasing strategy: benefits for whom?Quebec food purchasing strategy: benefits for whom?

Jasmine Rondeau La Tribune While they believe that the government is taking a big step forward by adopting for the first time a national strategy for purchasing Quebec food, many producers would nevertheless like to be assured that this sudden demand for local will not only be used to line the pockets of intermediaries, to the detriment of citizens and small producers.

This is one of the first thoughts that crossed the mind of Marie-Chantal Houde, owner of Fromagerie Nouvelle-France, in Racine, after the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food unveiled his strategy, Tuesday morning. She fears that producers will have to deal with the abuse of certain distributors, wholesalers or merchants who will sell to institutions, who will gain some power over the price of food.

“What has just been announced is great,” she says. Encouraging institutions to buy from Quebec is the base. But if we launch this purchasing policy there, we must also be able to launch a kind of profit margin limit policy, in my opinion. “

Already, the producer of cheeses made from sheep's and goat's milk often sees the price of her products swell between her and the consumer. “People write to us saying that they see our cheeses at exorbitant prices and that we should be ashamed of ourselves. When we dig, we realize that some businesses take more than 50% profit margin. We often have the smallest profit margins as producers and processors. And it's literally a taboo subject, no one wants to talk about it so as not to upset anyone. It's about being fair. By the way, when will an Equitable Quebec logo come out? “

François Bourassa, president of the Union des producteurs agricoles de l'Estrie, agrees. According to him, Tuesday's long-awaited news is excellent. “Several governments had tried in the past and it never really worked. There, they set specific targets to be achieved. If we can have results once and for all, the entire economy will gain, ”he says.

However, he is also concerned about the real benefits for producers. “There aren't many distributors. There is even one which is very large and which is American owned. Already, if we favored Quebec distributors rather than American distributors, that would be a step in the right direction. The other thing that has always been requested is that the offers be split. Often, institutions issue calls for tenders that cover several regions. For small producers, it is very difficult to provide these offers. If the calls for tender were split more regionally, it would be easier for several producers to supply the institutions. “

Quebec food purchasing strategy: benefits for whom?

François Bourassa, president of the UPA de l'Estrie Photo archives La Tribune


Asked about the difference that this strategy will make in its supply, the director of supply and logistics at the CIUSSS de l'Estrie – CHUS, Daniel Cyr, declared by email that the establishment will take the time to analyze the adjustments, “if necessary”, that this will involve. “Our establishment culture was already moving in this direction and we will continue this local purchasing process according to the guidelines given to us by the government authorities. We encourage this initiative and we will make sure to meet the targets set. “

It was not possible to know the number of food suppliers to the CIUSSS, nor to know the geographical coverage of its calls for tenders.

Recall that Minister André Lamontagne announced on Tuesday his strategy to stimulate the purchase of local food in public institutions. In particular, the strategy must ensure that 85% of public establishments have set a target for purchasing Quebec foods by 2023, then that 100% of them have done so by 2025.

It also provides for the creation of a support service for institutions, the creation of the Directory of Quebec Foods, the Biofood Market Development Program, the Recognition Program Quebec Foods on the menu and the creation of a committee bringing together main ministries responsible for the various public networks, which will be intended to ensure the commitment of the parties.

The value of food sales in the institutional sector, which covers many networks, in particular those of health, education, daycare services, municipal services, correctional services, transport and government corporations and ministries , was nearly $ 2.4 billion in 2019.

Quebec food purchasing strategy: benefits for whom?

Marie-Chantal Houde, owner of Fromagerie Nouvelle-France, in Racine Photo archives La Tribune

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