There are plenty of benefits to buying local food, the most important being that customers support farmers and the local economy, enjoy a variety of fresh products, and save money at the same time.
Buying local produce means supporting farmers and providing income to grow fresh, seasonable food. Locally grown and processed food also helps create jobs in restaurants, businesses that produce farming tools and machinery, and other settings. Bakeries, food processing facilities, and other producers also use local products and ingredients to make oils, pastas, jams, breads, cakes, and so on. What is more, many family-run farms use methods, tools, and techniques based on organic and sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture involves techniques that aim to reduce pollution and water waste and improve soil quality and health. A variety of methods are used to grow high-quality food, including agroforestry and food forests, aquaponics and hydroponics, growth of heirloom, crop rotation, and others. Organic farming is based on biological pest control and techniques such as companion planting, crop rotation, and composting. Microbial biofertilizers are also used, including fungi, algae, and bacteria. Canadian farmers produce a selection of organic products such as maple products, lettuce, carrots, spinach, tomatoes, potatoes, and herbs.
Buying local food also helps minimize environmental pollution in that transportation contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. International freight transported by ship or plane is not taxed which means that both customers and carriers save money on taxes; see here: www.creditavenue.ca The problem is that international freight contributes to pollution. At the same time, cross-country transport by truck causes even more pollution, thus making things worse. Many products are first transported by sea or air and then trucked across Canada. In fact, hundreds of trucks are used to carry food from North America and across Canada on a daily basis. There are different ways to go about this, and one is to educate consumers and raise awareness of the cost of air, sea, and road transportation of groceries. It is also important to encourage consumers to buy locally grown produce in order to reduce their carbon footprint.
There are health benefits to buying local produce as well. Products are fresh and seasonal and have been picked on the same day or within a day or two. This also means that local food has a higher nutritional value and contains more vitamins and minerals compared to imported food. In addition, canned and packaged food is packed with sugar, artificial flavors, dyes, hormones, and preservatives that are not only unhealthy but take longer to digest. Local farmers do not use genetically modified seeds as only large-scale farms have access to GMO. Genetically modified food is associated with various health risks such as reproductive problems, liver problems, allergic reactions, and gastrointestinal disorders. Research studies with a focus on animal toxicity also reveal that genetically modified food can cause renal, pancreatic, and hematological problems.
Finally, local products have to meet high safety and quality standards in Canada, and there are regulations on the use of herbicides, pesticides, additives, seeds, dairy products, eggs, poultry, and other products.
Buying local also means that customers enjoy a large variety of products, including dairies, fish, meat, vegetables and fruits, and more. Farmers in Ontario, for example, produce maple syrup, honey, eggs, and fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, plums, cherries, cabbage, and broccoli. Local produce also includes meat such as lamb, pork, veal, and beef and poultry such as duck, turkey, and chicken. Locally grown fish includes perch, pickerel, and trout. In addition to a large variety of products, local produce is often cheaper than imports and helps customers save money. Some products are good to buy in season while others are available the whole year. For example, lentils, beans, eggs, and dairies are available all year long.
In addition to a large variety of products and health and environmental benefits, buying locally grown foods helps support the Canadian economy. Agriculture accounted for close to 7 percent of GDP in 2016 and employed more than 2 million Canadians working across industries, including foodservice and retail, beverage and food processing, and farming.Learn More
The dairy industry is one of the main agricultural sectors in Canada, with many farms operating in Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and elsewhere. To manage production and supply, the government introduced a supply management and quota system in the 70s with the goal of controlling supply. In essence, farmers are required to sell milk at fixed prices and can produce set quantities.
Proponents point to the fact that the price of milk is low thanks to the supply management system. Not only this, but this helps keep farms busy and in business. Proponents also claim that the system offers benefits to consumers and farmers alike. Canadian consumers pay less for dairy products than consumers in countries such as the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. Supply management also means predictability for consumers and farmers in terms of production standards and price levels.
Opponents claim that Canada’s protection of the dairy industry favors large, wealthy farms and consumers actually pay for this. In fact, under the quota system, milk prices in Canada are considerably higher. Data by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that milk prices are up to three times higher compared to world price levels. What is more, taxpayers’ money is used to provide subsidies to farmers. OECD estimates that consumers pay close to $2.6 billion a year in overcharges to pay subsidies. See here: www.macleans.ca
For farmers who are willing to enter the market, quotas are also an obstacle. Quotas work similar to franchise fees charged to start a business. A paper by the Montreal Economic Institute shows that in some cases, farmers spend as much to meet quotas as on equipment and tools, cows, premises, land, etc. The quota for a farm of 85 cattle is $3.5 million in Alberta and $2 million in Quebec and Ontario. In addition, the supply management system and lack of competition works to the disadvantage of both customers and farmers. For example, farmers who wish to expand may use a number of strategies that benefit consumers. These include advertising, better quality service, product differentiation, higher quality products, and others. This is not an option under a supply management system. The access of consumers to foreign dairy products is also more limited because of the high customs tariffs. Data shows that tariff levels are extremely high – over 298 percent for butter and 245 percent for cheese. The problem with lowering customs tariffs is that the supply management system will no longer be able to effectively control production and supply because consumers will have more choice.
New Zealand and Australia are good examples of success stories when it comes to deregulation. In Australia, for example, the supply management system was eliminated in 2000. Public programs were implemented for a certain period of time to reduce milk prices and compensate farmers. This was done by imposing a tax on consumption and other measures. New Zealand also adopted a set of measures to deregulate the market and ended agricultural subsidies in 1984. This resulted in product diversification and the uptake of organic agriculture. The agricultural sector accounted for 14.2 percent of GDP in 1986 and increased to 16.4 in 2000.
The conclusion is that the system works to the disadvantage of consumers who pay higher prices in the form of overcharges. The average overcharge has been estimated at 89 percent for dairy, according to an OECD report. Farmers, on the other hand, do not have any control over production levels and pricing to expand and diversify their product range.Learn More