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Québec growers worry about water

Canada and the United States share the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River watershed, which drains 25 per cent of the world's freshwater resources. Against this backdrop, the Canadian Agri-food Policy Institute (CAPI) believes that water quantity and quality present the prospect of redefining domestic and
international agri-food trade.

In this Perspective Report, journalist, photographer and CAPI Distinguished Fellow Nicolas Mesly, focuses on the issues facing Quebec's agricultural producers and processors. This sector is the province's largest manufacturing sector, and its agri-food exports account for 12 per cent of all Canadian agri-food exports.

Key take-aways

-  Despite an abundance of water in Québec – more than 1,000 mm per year in the fertile St. Lawrence watershed – the region is suffering from the effects of climate change, such as intense, short-lived rainstorms or prolonged periods of intense heat waves. As a result, crops have suffered and the cost of crop insurance has soared in recent years.

-  Producers of vegetables and field crops alike must learn to manage on-farm water using technology such as efficient irrigation systems and reservoirs. The Québec Vegetable Growers’ Association (l’Association des producteurs maraîchers du Québec, APMQ) foresees infrastructure such as pipelines to bring water from the St. Lawrence River or adjacent rivers to deficit areas.

-  Conflicts emerge between municipalities, agricultural production, industry, and environmental protection. There is a lack of leadership and financial resources allocated to managing competing interests in the watersheds. The greatest threat to water supplies is unbridled urban sprawl.

-  The price of water is a concern for the province's agricultural producers, but in addition, the price of electricity is a major concern for members of the Québec Food Processors’ Association (le Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec, CTAQ). For the association, fair electricity and water prices are fundamental to the competitiveness of the industry from farm to fork.

-  Despite the existence of the International Joint Commission to manage transboundary water use and disputes between the United States and Canada, some Canadian businessmen and researchers interviewed for this fellowship fear that, with climate change, the future may hold massive water exports from Canada to the United States.

Source : The Grower

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