The Local Struggle Against Cheap Imported Food
This week we’re celebrating the local food our farmers produce for us during Local Food Week from June 4th to 10th. During this week we appreciate all the nutritious, fresh food that is produced here in Ontario.
As Ontario residents, we are lucky to be living in an area with highly productive farmlands. We have access to a plentiful amount of healthy, locally grown food, and it often only takes a quick trip to the farmers market or grocery store to get. But even with all the readily available, locally sourced food, Ontario’s produce markets are bombarded with cheap, imported alternatives. For example, this time of year, many berry farmers, including CFFO members, are concerned about the disadvantage that this places on local producers.
This week, the No Frill’s flyer offered a pound of U.S. strawberries for only a dollar. This means that a flat of these strawberries, equal to about 9 pounds, goes for $9. If an employee picks two flats an hour for a local strawberry farmer, a $14/hour minimum wage is already costing the farmer almost all of the strawberries’ shelf price. That’s ignoring all other expenses.
It’s easy for foreign producers to dump their product in an external market for such a low price when they are not facing the same production costs that Ontario producers do. As a CBC interview with an Ontario farmer explains, factors such as a lower minimum wage and (in many states) free hydro allow American producers to put their product on shelves in Ontario at much lower costs than their local competitors. With the expenses that Ontario farmers face, it’s clear that competing with cheap imported alternatives is a daunting task.
While consumers may want to support local food, it is hard for many when given this significant price difference to understand why the local produce costs so much more. Our farmers invest countless hours, and work within very different bounds to produce safe, healthy food.
There are so many advantages to choosing local food. The benefits include greater retention of wealth in local communities, environmental sustainability from reduced packaging and fossil fuels, a healthier diet for the consumer, and long-term preservation of farmland. Buying food locally might just seem like a choice for most, but in reality, it is an investment—in yourself, your community, and your local farmer.
Josh Kraemer is Communications Intern for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXFM Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.