Friday, June 23, 2017

Free okra seed available for trials

Ramesh Eerpina is offering free seed to any Ontario farmer who wants to try growing a crop of okra.

It’s a green pod-like vegetable popular in the Southern United States and some other countries.

The Research and Innovation Centre in Vineland has been working on the crop for more than five years, and now thinks that yields of 20,000 kilograms per hectare are possible.

Eerpina, who is the senior research technician of vegetable production with the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, says more than six million kilograms was imported in 2015 for sale in Ontario stores.

There’s okra information on the institute’s webside:

Dresden recalls tart shells

Dresden Meat Packers in recalling tart shells because of potential contamination with E. coli 0121 bacteria.

The recall is the latest in a long and still-growing list of companies that have been caught up in a Canadian Food Inspection Agency investigation into distribution of Robin Hood all-purpose flour from Ardent Mills.

The recalls began at the end of March and are from across Canada, although most of the tart and pie shells involved were made in Ontario.

U.S. bans fresh beef from Brazil

The United States has banned fresh beef from Brazil due to food safety concerns.

There has been no word from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or the Canadian Border Services Agency about officials' concerns about food safety risks from importing fresh beef from Brazil.

There is a huge scandal in Brazil over bribery of meat inspectors so shipments could be cleared for export.

Half a dozen packing plants have been shut down by the investigation by federal police in Brazil.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that 11 per cent of shipments from Brazil have failed to meet standards, so that’s why the ban has been instituted.

That compares with one per cent of beef imports from all countries that fails to meet U.S. standards, the department said.

While the CFIA has said nothing so far, other than a suspension earlier this year for beef from the plants the federal police in Brazil fingered in their investigation, it’s likely that Canada will match the U.S. ban to preserve free trade with the U.S.

Milk board calls for five per cent increase

The Dairy Farmers of Ontario marketing board has put out a call for more milk.

It has increased quotas by five per cent, effective July 1.

This quota has no restrictions and can be sold.

The five provinces that jointly manage milk production, called P5, say that they need more milk to meet demand.

Butter is usually stockpiled during peak milk production season, which is just ending, and this year the “stocks have not surpassed their updated target level of 35,000 tonnes,” says a statement from P5.

“Demand for dairy products continues to be strong while P5 processing capacity has increased since the beginning of April but continues to be closely monitored.”

It seems the milk industry has been caught short of supplies, just as the chicken industry was. In both cases, imports from the United States were curbed, but the Canadian farmers were not poised and ready to fill the gap left when the imports declined.

In the case of milk, it was diafiltered milk that was coming in without tariffs. The milk boards responded by cutting prices so Canadian processors would buy from Canadian farmers rather than U.S. processors.

In the case of chicken, the Canadian Border Services Agency was persuaded to use DNA testing to distinguish boneless chicken breast meat that was derived from spent fowl from meat derived from broilers. 

There is no tariff on spent fowl meat, but there is a hefty tariff on broiler meat.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Small-bird market is short of chicken

There has been a shortage of chickens in the lightest-weight category for months, and it’s getting worse.

There are a number of factors, according to various sources in the chicken industry, none of them willing to be quoted by name.

One is that it’s not as profitable for either farmers or processors to market chicken in the lightest-weight category. They make better margins on weightier birds.

Production of these light-weight birds was cut back first in Quebec where they now are simply not available, and now in Ontario.

One of the suppliers, Farm Fresh Poultry co-operative at Harriston has converted to organic chicken and is no longer processing the lightest-weight category.

Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. at Norval, near Brampton, is cutting back on the category and some of its customers have been told the company will no longer be able to service them.

That has, in turn, left some retailers in the lurch. For example, one company president said he has many Mom and Pop barbecue restaurants serving the Portuguese community in Toronto and they are not able to get the light-weight birds.

He said one customer may be forced into bankruptcy because he recently expanded to add three more locations for which he now is unable acquire chicken.

These Portugeuse businesses use imported cooking equipment which require the small birds.

A spokesman for one of the supply-management regulators involved in the shortage said there have already been successful applications for supplementary import permits.

Another related issue is reduced supply from the United States when the Canadian Border Services Agency began using DNA testing to distinguish boneless chicken breasts that are harvested from spent fowl or from broilers.

The national agency complained before that there was so much chicken being imported as spent fowl, for which there is no tariff, that the total was greater than the entire U.S. supply.

When that supply dropped, the Canadian supply-management system was not able to react immediately to fill the void, so there was a shortage.

The result is record-high, and still climbing, prices for boneless chicken breast meat.

And yet another factor has been the inability of Ontario to produce up to the increased limits granted under a new deal with the national agency.

For all but one of the quota periods in the last two years, Ontario has fallen short of filling its allocation. In the most recent quota period, it actually produced less than the comparable quota period last year.

One of the "explanations" that has been cited is a retrovirus that is impacting chick quality and supplies. Another is that Mexico has needed chicks from the U.S. and that has reduced the supply there, including the availability for Canadians.

One of the embarrassing issues for supply management is that part of its bargain with the public is that in return for being able to charge prices high enough to cover production costs and provide acceptable returns for labour, management and investment, it is to keep the Canadian market adequately supplied with wholesome chicken.