Quebec to spend $500 million to get more people eating locally grown food

Already a national leader in the production of local and organic food, the Quebec government is promising to spend $500 million over the next five years to boost the fledgling industry.

Couillard government outlines plan to support so-called biofood industry

Premier Philippe Couillard says improving Quebecers' quality of life is a priority of his government, which is why the government's spending half a billion dollars over five years to promote eating healthy, locally produced foods. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Already a national leader in the production of local and organic food, the Quebec government is promising to spend $500 million over the next five years to boost the fledgling industry. 

Speaking at a farm in Île Perrot, just off Montreal's West Island, Premier Philippe Couillard said Friday the money will go toward increasing exports of Quebec-grown food, expanding processing capacity and encouraging more production in rural areas. 

The plan, initially unveiled in last month's budget, is being billed as the government's way to promote Quebec products and encourage Quebecers to buy local.

"We will eat more locally grown products," Couillard said. "We'll know more about where they come from. We'll know our producers more, and our children will have contact with Quebec products from a young age."

Nearly $100 million has been allotted this year for various measures to support the so-called biofood sector. The budget outlined the government's intention to spend a similar amount annually until 2023.  

More organic farming

The Liberal government intends to pass legislation before the next provincial election to make sure the plan goes ahead — a bill is expected to be tabled at the National Assembly next week.

Biofood, as defined by the Quebec government, includes organic farming, but also encompasses elements of the dairy and fishing industries. Using this definition, the government estimates biofood accounts for eight per cent of Quebec's GDP and is worth nearly $25.3 billion annually.

Figures compiled recently by the Canada Organic Trade Association indicate Quebec has the highest number of organic food operations in the country, as well as the most certified producers.

As part of the plan announced Friday, Quebec will take steps to double the territory set aside for organic farming.

With files from Lauren McCallum