Fragile supply chain shows the importance of prioritizing local food production

FREDERICTON – Many New Brunswickers were alarmed to find empty produce shelves across New Brunswick last week due to multiple major snowstorms. Green Party Agriculture critic and MLA for Kent North Kevin Arseneau says this is indicative of a food system that relies on imported fruits and vegetables, which will be increasingly disrupted by crises outside of New Brunswick, such as severe weather from climate change or major COVID outbreaks.

“When we rely so heavily on produce from outside the province, a drought in California or a snowstorm in Ontario can impact the availability of food for New Brunswickers,” said Arseneau. “This is why we need to see a real commitment from the Higgs government to ensure that New Brunswick fruits and vegetables are easily available on grocery store shelves.”

New Brunswick only produces 7% of the vegetables that are consumed in the province. Last January the Higgs government released its Local Food and Beverages Strategy with a goal of increasing fruit and vegetable production in the province and increasing the presence of local food in grocery stores but lacks substance.

“New Brunswickers want to have local food on their table, but to do so, the government needs tangible policies to meet their objective of making local food available in as many settings possible,” said Arseneau. “This could include a quota on local produce, so farmers can plan and prepare to have local produce in grocery stores year-round or supporting local supply chains by empowering cooperative infrastructure, distribution and processing”

Arseneau says that the pandemic shows the importance of local food, and contribution of local farmers. It presents an opportunity to re-imagine agriculture in the province

“New Brunswick needs to act now for real food sovereignty for the province,” said Arseneau. “We need to be investing in existing farms and new entrant farmers, as well as ensuring a viable and sustainable model that veers away from the monopolistic, monoculture, industrial and extractivist model currently practiced.”