Lettuce Shortage: Farmers in New Brunswick Are Ready for the Challenge
Local producers claim that their products are more accessible and fresher than vegetables imported from the United States.
It is almost a luxury today to afford a romaine or iceberg lettuce. The purchase price of these vegetable plants, exported mainly from the United States, has risen dramatically. With a little support, New Brunswick producers say they can sufficiently supply the Atlantic market.
For the past few weeks, the Atlantic provinces and even the whole country have been grappling with a shortage of romaine and iceberg lettuce.
This situation is continuing without any problems. we know when grocery store shelves will be stocked in sufficient quantities again.
The scarcity of these lettuces is caused by drought and a disease that ravaged crops in California, in the United States.
Daniel Ratté, owner of Enogrow
In this context, New Brunswick producers would like to obtain support to allow them to increase their production.
This is the case of the company Enogrow, based in Caraquet, in northern New Brunswick. It produces annually, in soilless culture, 90,000 heads of lettuce. And it plans to increase it considerably.
We must exceed our two-year expansion plans and, additionally, have nearly 600,000 heads of lettuce per year. For us, it's a happy problem.
“The equipment, it's there. The local is there. We only have to have controls and make proposals to have the necessary funds to help New Brunswick achieve food self-sufficiency. »
— Daniel Ratté, co-owner of Enogrow
Enogrow is not the only producer to see this shortage as a business opportunity . Local By Atta, a company that has a hydroponic farm in Moncton, in turn isn't ruling out increasing production. However, this investment is still difficult to support alone for this company.
Julian Howatt, owner of Local By Atta
It's very expensive, setting up a farm like that. Lights and environment controls are very expensive. We cannot simply add another field to our production. It still takes months of planning to increase production, says Julian Howatt, owner of the company Local By Atta.
These two New Brunswick companies go a little further. They claim to be able to supply the four Atlantic provinces. Their products would have nothing to envy to those from outside, quite the contrary.
Because it's produced indoors, we're not going to add pesticides, nothing like that. These are already, at the base, better quality products, says Julian Howan.
Daniel Ratté, co-owner of the Enogrow company, adds: It's that lettuce, in their livery, it is only 24 hours old. [There isn't] a lettuce that comes from California [that] is going to be less than 7 to 11 days old, which doesn't leave a lot of time for people to eat it, he argues.
Realizing this ambition could take some time yet. Until then, the shortage continues to change eating habits, both at home and in restaurants.
Dominique Ratté, owner of the Guacamole restaurant
Some restaurants have reduced the amount of lettuce offered in meals served to customers. Others have completely removed lettuce from their menu.
Many restaurants, however, offer substitutes such as spinach and mixes that are still available.
We have no choice but to be creative and explore different avenues in these times instead of always passing the bill to the customer, admits Dominique Ratté, owner of the chain of Guacamole restaurants in Moncton.