The Gleaner
Agriculture

Seeking sustainable apple production for Quebec

Les Producteurs de pommes du Québec (PPQ) announced the launch of the 2023 apple season despite the weather having been difficult with a spring frost causing significant damage to some orchards. But poor weather is not the only obstacle for apple producers, with the past few years introducing new economic, technological, and climate realities to the apple sector. Producers are reaching out to the ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) to create a strategy to help develop sustainable, self-sufficient apple production in the province.

Some of the major challenges include the following: the proportion of Quebec apples in grocery stores has settled at about 50 per cent; the number of growers is declining; consumers prefer varieties that are not grown in Quebec; production costs are rising; climate change; and the lack of access to financing programs.

Éric Rochon, president of the PPQ and owner of Ferme Rochon et frères in Saint-Benoît de Mirabel, shares that “Our adaptation challenges are enormous, and have major repercussions on every link in the chain from production to distribution, not forgetting consumers.”

Martin Caron, general president of the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), adds that “While many agricultural businesses are facing a difficult economic context due to inflation, rising production input costs, and soaring interest rates, the 2023 summer season was characterized by unprecedented extreme weather events. These have caused more than significant damage in several production sectors. The government must support the apple-growing sector to develop a strategy for growth and adaptation to today’s new realities.”

Since the Orchard Modernization Program expired in 2021, two other modernization initiatives have been launched at a ministry level. Requests from the PPQ to the MAPAQ for long-term programs have not been met.

Some possible solutions being suggested to help make the apple business more sustainable are diversifying the varieties grown in the province, pivoting to adapt to climate change to up the quality of the apples, and lowering production costs by using new machinery and high-density replanting. (CF)

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