Every couple of days, we hear that food is very expensive, but seldom are we told why. Not only is food expensive but it will be a few years before it drops in price, if ever.
Some so called food experts are quick to blame the supply management system of marketing dairy, eggs and chicken products for much of our high food price. I have written before about how the supply management or quota system works and that it is the only system of marketing that is open for government, retailers, wholesalers and consumers to scrutinize before any price raise to the producer.
Some juristictions like Ireland, the E.U., and New Zealand eliminated the supply management system of marketing several years ago and yes the prices of supply managed products went down for a few months. Some more farmers went broke and very quickly, the price that the consumer paid in the grocery stores went back up even higher than they were before.
Did anyone watch the recent inquiry into food store profits in Canada?
Many of our food products like grains that are planted with this year’s fuel, seed, fertilizer land rental and labour prices but the farmer will not get paid until next year. By the time those grains that were planted when prices were high, are processed into cereal, bread, corn oil, or margarine it will be several more months. A baby calf that sells for $400 or $500 dollars today will eat that expensive grain and forage for a year or more before it is large enough to be turned into hamburg or steak. A dairy cow that is bred today will not have a calf for nine more months and only half of the calves will be female. It will be two more years before the new cow that grew from that calf will produce a litre of milk. There are several months lag time before baby chickens or pigs can eat enough of that high priced grain to either produce an egg or be turned into bacon or chicken wings.
This increase in severe weather like droughts or floods reduces production and causes food prices to escalate. Recent studies showed that 40 per cent of farmers have lost money for each of the last three years. Another projection done by agricultural lenders, estimate that 11 per cent of Quebec farms will quit this year.
When our grandparents farmed, every farm kept a large garden which produced most of the fruits and vegetables for the year. Yes, a root cellar and canning was involved. Hens produced both eggs and chicken. Milk cows provided most dairy products and both beef and pork were produced on the farm.
A cheap food policy was adopted in much of the developed world, food freedom-day when the average citizen had made enough income, if it all went to food, was in February or March depending on the country.
Many farmers have not bothered with a garden for many years. I’ve heard many a farmer say, “it’s easier to milk a couple more cows than work in the garden.” Since food prices have risen and we hear that a lot of imported vegetables are sprayed with who knows what. Much of the fruits and vegetables are produced with foreign labour because those people still remember how to grow a garden, and they are not afraid to work long hours when needed or get their hands dirty. Recently, many Canadians have begun to plant a little garden where what is sprayed on or used to grow the plants are controlled by the consumer who eats them.
Just in the last few years; Canada’s highest rated university has been offering a garden course which is now the most accepted course on campus.
Many city people are growing a little garden in the back yard, on the roof, or in a few big flower pots on the balcony. I wonder why our food banks, which are so overrun these last few years don’t give out little packs of vegetable, seeds with a simple instruction paper giving guidance about planting and tending a flower pot garden.
Clean air, safe water, and safe nutritious food are man’s most important needs.
Chris Judd is a farmer in Clarendon on land that has been in his family for generations.
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