Opinion: Canadian fruit and vegetable growers at risk
— The Vancouver Sun
CALL FOR ACTION: Government must act to protect the root of the supply chain that brings produce to Canadians.
The local fruit and vegetable season is well underway and, as we all know, fresh produce is perishable. Delicious as it is at its peak, you have to eat fresh produce quickly. As producers of fresh fruits and vegetables, we are acutely aware of the perishability and limited shelf life produce has when shipped to brokers, wholesalers and retailers. Unfortunately, as is the case in business, sometimes buyers go bankrupt or refuse to pay. This might not be as much of a concern when we’re talking about TVs or running shoes because those can be reclaimed. This is not the case for fresh produce.
It is for this reason that financial protection is essential for fruit and vegetable growers. Once a shipment is gone, it’s gone, and a buyer refusing to pay can have a huge financial impact on growers who, in Canada, have little recourse to reclaim the value of their produce. U.S. growers have something called the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) Trust, which allows growers, (including Canadian growers) to reclaim the value of their produce should a buyer go bankrupt or refuse to pay, all at no cost to taxpayers. Canada offers no similar protection to Canadian growers or U.S. exporters, and because of this, on October 1, 2014, the USDA revoked Canada’s preferential status to the PACA suite of services so important to Canadian exporters. So now we’re vulnerable north and south of the border.