British Columbia

B.C. veggie farmers hoping for boost from low Canadian dollar

B.C. farmers are hoping they'll be able to cash in as consumers look for options other than expensive imported produce.

'Anything that we can use use to help boost our price ... is going to help'

B.C. vegetable farmers and the low loonie

CBC News Vancouver at 6

5 years ago
Lagging Canadian dollar could boost business for B.C. farmers 1:54

B.C. farmers are hoping they'll be able to cash in as consumers look for options other than expensive imported produce. 

Nearly all fruits and vegetables consumed in Canada are imported making them more susceptible to the loonie's fluctuations, and the dollar's recent slump has pushed produce prices up

"Your prices are set by competition and our competition is import foods," said Ron Tamish with Rondriso Farms in Surrey. "So anything we can use to help boost our price ... the American dollar is definitely going to help affect the cost of the price of food."

In 2015, fruits and veggies jumped in price between 9.1 and 10.1 per cent, according to an annual report by the Food Institute at the University of Guelph, and an increase above inflation is expected to continue.

Onions are one of the crops grown at Rondriso Farms in B.C.'s Lower Mainland. Owner Ron Tamish hopes he can get a boost in price for his produce as the price for imported veggies climbs. (CBC)

With prices soaring for imported foods, there is a rising demand for produce grown locally, but unfortunately there are few crops that can be harvested here through the winter.

Local farmers hope prices stay high until the spring so they can cash in.

"It's been a myth for a long time that food has to be cheap," said Bill Zylmans, owner of W and A Farms. "We have all the input costs that are going through the roof, we have the expenses and the only way we can move forward is if we get a return on our investment."

Zylmans describes the prices at grocery stores as a wake-up call to consumers and wants shoppers to get used to paying more for what he and others work hard to produce.

Meanwhile, produce managers say they've had to change the way they sell vegetables just to keep consumers buying them.

Bill Zylmans, owner of W and A Farms, says it's been a myth for a long time that food has to be cheap and hopes consumers will turn now to domestically grown produce rather that U.S-grown veggies. (CBC)

Jessica Cardinal, the produce manager at the Organic Grocer says she's stopped stocking cauliflower because it's too expensive to keep on shelves.

"We have to lower our margins," she said. "We're not making a lot of money on produce. We're just providing a service and supporting our local farmers as best we can."

Still with a big opportunity for B.C. farmers to now compete with produce coming from the U.S., some like Tamish know they have to keep the quality high to engage more savvy shoppers.

"You have to stay competitive or people aren't going to buy from you. Your quality definitely speaks for itself."

with files from Jesse Johnston


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