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Quebec raspberry farmers having trouble competing with multinationals

07/23/2015 11:15 EDT | Updated 07/23/2016 05:59 EDT
Though it's raspberry season in Quebec, you might not be able to tell by looking in grocery stores.

Quebec raspberry farmers are upset there isn't enough space for their fruit in the province's supermarkets. They say some grocers are opting to buy American berries — and without the support of supermarkets during peak season, they can't compete with major international raspberry producers.

"Our season is a month to a month and a half," said raspberry farmer Simon Charbonneau.

"What I'm asking for is that they give us our window, and not buy too many international berries. There are 52 weeks in a year. If we can have four or five, I'll be happy."

Sale on American berries

As of next week, Provigo and Loblaws have American berries on sale. At Metro, the flier advertises American berries on sale, but once it was printed, the company decided to put local berries on sale too.

"When we have a big offer from the U.S, and the price is cheaper, we have to give the right price to the customers. Some customers buy it for the taste. Some customers buy it for the price," said Florent Gravel, CEO of the Quebec Food Retailers Association.

A consultant who works with people in agriculture says it's a constant challenge for the Quebec producers to compete with their multinational companies.

"Everybody loves local but not everybody wants to pay," said Hugh Maynard.

"They want their special from IGA, they want to go to Costco and it's very difficult on a local basis to offer a) the prices and b) the quantity to put them on sale."

Farmers struggling 

Charbonneau sells 30,000 crates of berries to supermarkets each year. However, he says other farmers tell him they're struggling.

"This morning, two of them told me they are going to stop harvesting parts of their fields," he said. 

He says unless supermarkets start giving local producers a break, it may get harder to find local berries in stores.

"For sure, they'll have some decisions to make. Will they eliminate fields, will they continue to grow raspberries?" 

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