Pot industry putting food farmland under pressure
Published Friday, October 26, 2018 4:33PM PDT
Last Updated Friday, October 26, 2018 6:26PM PDT
Many farmers in B.C.'s Lower Mainland are looking to cash in on the budding cannabis industry by swapping out traditional crops for legal marijuana.
While legalization could benefit those struggling to earn a living, it raises concerns that too much farmland is going green.
Michael DeGiglio, CEO of Village Farms in Delta, is among those planting pot.
"Cannabis is just another crop for us, and it is a more lucrative crop," he told CTV News Friday.
He said the agriculture business is challenging when produce being shipped north is often cheaper.
"It's really the pricing pressure out of Mexico," he said, so his company looked to diversify.
"We've only shifted 10 per cent of the assets we own into cannabis and we'll see if we're doing to make further expansions going forward."
He says the returns from pot products are 10 times as great as from other crops.
"We used to do north of 20 per cent on tomatoes. We're down to about five or six, and cannabis at these prices are closer to 50 per cent," DeGiglio said.
But it might not be great for everyone. Outgoing Delta mayor Lois Jackson said she's concerned about use of designated farmland.
"If we take all our best land, and Delta is some of the best we have in this province, and we turn it into recreational pot growing that takes away from our ability to grow food," she said.
And it's not an issue isolated to B.C.
"It just makes our agricultural economy a bit more vulnerable from a food security perspective," said Dalhousie University's Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy.
According to Statistics Canada, grocery prices are trending up over the past several years, so leaning on Mexico and the U.S. for produce could mean spending more at the till.
"The other bump we may see within the next 12 months is the arrival of edibles," he said.
Charlebois says demand could climb, but those in the business are cautious.
"I think it's going to taper off more so than increase," DeGiglio said.
"I think the train left the station, because we can see as companies start to execute over the next few years on their plan of production, we will get to a point of capacity meeting supply."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Allison Hurst