Monday, February 20, 2017

Report on egg board governance is out

There is almost nothing interesting in the report of the inquiry into the Ontario Egg Producers Marketing Board, Ontario Farmer has learned after using Freedom of Information to obtain a copy.

The inquiry was set up by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission after Verified Eggs, owned by Svante Lind, filed a complaint requesting an inquiry.

But the commission refused to look into a long list of allegations that are at the root of what Lind has claimed was unfair treatment by the board and competitors.

The commission’s correspondence indicates that it shrugged off the allegations by noting they’re the subject of a lawsuit – still not settled – that Lind filed against the egg board and the two major egg-grading companies that were his competitors. 

He sold his Best Choice Eggs under duress a couple of years ago.

The commission also decided that egg grading is the responsibility of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

That’s a crucial part of the concerns Lind outlined. The egg board accused him of cheating by not including enough eggs in the Grade A category which is the only one for which it collects levies to run its operations.

Lind countered that it’s not his Best Choice Eggs that was cheating, but competitors L.H. Gray and Sons Ltd. and Burnbrae Farms who included cracks and dirty eggs in their Grade A category.

Ontario Farmer has confirmed that Lind’s complaint is justified, based on the results of random-sample checks conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

The commission correspondence includes a comment that there is a “tolerance” for grading. There is nothing in the law or regulations the CFIA is supposed to enforce that allows for a tolerance at the grading station.

Lind also complained about the administration of supplementary import permits. The commission simply accepted the egg board’s contention that it’s the national egg agency, not the Ontario board, that deals with supplementary import permits.

The commission apparently didn’t care to notice that it’s the Ontario board that scares up eggs in an attempt to thwart applications for supplementary import permits and that the eggs it supplied to Lind are the subject of one of his complaints. 

Eggs that arrived at his plant were cracked, broken and dirty and condemned by the CFIA inspector checking them on arrival at Best Choice.

Having narrowed the terms of the inquiry to egg board governance, the report indicates the investigators were satisfied when they found documents outlining policies and procedures.

They did not check how well those policies and procedures were implemented, simply saying that’s up to the board of directors elected by farmers.

There are large sections of the documents that have been censored, some because the freedom-of-information officials say they are exempted because they refer to criminal matters, some because they are correspondence between solicitor and client and some because they are protected by privacy law.

The report itself was released in its entirety.

What is most surprising is that the final report was submitted almost four years ago, but the commission said nothing, even though Ontario Farmer often inquired whether it was finished.

The inquiry was conducted by two officials from the Ontario government’s Transportation and Agriculture Audit Services.

They worked under guidance from Deborah Whale and Jim Clark who were both vice-chairs of the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission.

Clark was recently appointed chairman after the resignation of Geri Kamenz.


Feds move to stem pesticide imports

The federal government is going to make it more difficult for Canadians to order pesticides online and have them imported without much checking.

Right now, if someone buys the pesticides for use in controlling weeds or insects around their own home and doesn't exceed the amount that qualifies for an exemption, there is little that authorities can do to stop the shipment, say government officials.

The problems is that householders can import any pesticide, even ones not registered in the country of origin or by Canada’s Pest Review Management Agency, says Health Canada.

The loophole allows any pesticide to be imported if it’s going to be used on the importer’s property. Commercial uses remain under control.

The current rules allow imports of less than 500 g or 500 ml and under $100 in value.  

"As a result, neither Health Canada nor the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has the authority to refuse entry of such products if they meet the exemption criteria," say officials in the Pest Management Review Agency, which is part of Health Canada. 

"The possibility of Internet sales and the potential threats such sales could pose to human health and the environment were not envisaged when the exemption was created in 1972," the officials have written.

They admit they don’t know how much is being imported. They probably also don’t know what’s being purchased.

Health Canada says it has identified more than 3,000 pest-control products for sale on foreign online retail websites.

The notice says Health Canada believes purchases by Canadians of prohibited pesticides are on the rise.

"Health Canada has noticed that the number of potentially dangerous products being imported has been increasing along with the growth of imports via courier and post," it wrote.

"Products that have been referred to Health Canada by the CBSA from the courier/mail stream include restricted class fumigants as well as various commercial class products intended to be used by licensed applicators with the appropriate training and equipment."

A pilot project at one courier entry point in Ontario between May and September 2015 resulted in 108 packages referred by CBSA to Health Canada and 454 kg of unregistered pest-control products blocked from entering Canada.

The current rules also have no restriction on how many orders someone can place, as long as each order is within the size limit.

"Importers can circumvent the quantity limit set out in the exemption by placing many separate orders via the Internet," officials wrote.

"This allows individuals and businesses to import virtually unlimited quantities of unregistered products for possible commercial use or resale — both of which contradict the 'personal use' criterion and intent of the exemption."

Shipping potentially dangerous pest control products into the country can also be a safety risk for those who handle it along the way — from warehouse employees and postal workers to border services officers, the government says.

On a different front, the federal government has said it’s ready to tighten the regulations that allow for own-use importation of livestock and poultry medicines.

Under the changes the government is proposing, pesticides ordered online could be stopped at the border because new rules will require individuals to have the chemicals in their personal possession in order to bring them into the country.

A further restriction, the pesticide would also have to be equivalent to a domestic class product already authorized for sale in Canada.

The total quantity could not exceed 500 g or 500 ml per person and per package, preventing people from claiming they are combining their exemptions in order to bring a larger package into the country.

The pesticide would also have to be in its original packaging and the labels must include at least one of Canada's official languages to allow Canadian officials to read and understand them.

And they must be registered and approved in the country of origin.

Kraft drops offer for Unilever

Kraft-Heinz has dropped its $143-billion bid for Uniliver two days after it was made.

Unilever said the bid “fundamentally undervalues” the company.

“Unilever and Kraft Heinz hold each other in high regard,” the companies said in a statement.

“Kraft Heinz has the utmost respect for the culture, strategy and leadership of Unilever," it said.

Kraft-Heinz is run by 3G of Brazil, even though Warren Buffet holds more shares.

It has rather ruthlessly cut costs, mainly by closing plants.

Heinz closed its ketchup plant in Leamington even before 3G and Buffet bought the company and merged it with Kraft.

3G also owns Burger King fast food chain which took over Tim Horton’s.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pea, lentil exports to India threatened

India is threatening to cut off imports of Canadian peas and lentils, possibly because it has had a huge harvest of its own.

India insists that all imports be fumigated with methyl bromide or a pesticide that is equally effective.

Canada does not allow the use of methyl bromide because of the environmental threat to the ozone layer.

But Canada says cold Prairie winters kill pests.

At issue is exports worth about $1.5 billion in 2015, and a market for a third of Canada’s exports of peas and lentils.

Already one shipping company has refused to transport a load to India because of uncertainty surrounding the issue.

3G makes bid for Unilever

3G Group of Brazil, which controls Kraft-Heinz and Tim Horton’s, has made a bid for Unilever, one of the world’s largest food companies headquartered in the Netherlands.

But Unilever says there is no merit in the proposal and rejected the offer worth $143 billion US.

Unilever said it had received an offer of $50 per share, made up of $30.23 in cash and the remainder in stock in the new group, representing a premium of 18 per cent.

“This fundamentally undervalues Unilever,” it said today.