Strawberry and raspberry production in Quebec is decreasing. Between fierce competition with products from Mexico and California, performance difficulties related to weather conditions and the increase in the minimum wage, which has increased by 16% over the past three years, many producers are throwing in the towel.
"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% of production costs are dedicated to labour," explains Jennifer Crawford, Executive Director of the Association of Strawberry and Raspberry Producers of Quebec.
As strawberries have to be picked by hand, it is not easy to reduce the number of teams in the field. "With the increase in the minimum wage above the cost of inflation, it is the profit margin that decreases directly each year," says Louis Gosselin, President of Ferme François Gosselin.
"With the minimum wage going from $10.75 to $12.50, there was a 10% loss of producers," says another producer.
According to several producers, it would not be advantageous to increase the prices of strawberries and raspberries to make up the shortfall: "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," explains Louis Gosselin.
In the long term, many producers want to find new techniques to increase their productivity; but in the short term, it remains very complex because they cannot do without their labour. To support producers, the Association of Strawberry and Raspberry Producers of Quebec has requested financial assistance from the government. "We hope the government will hear our message," concludes Jennifer Crawford.