Thursday, January 31, 2013

CAMI being starved out

Welland – Politics and bureaucracy are starving the CAMI International Poultry Inc. chicken-processing plant here out of business.

The politics is a marketing board agreement between Ontario and Quebec that has cut off CAMI’s access to chicken farmers in Quebec.

And the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board is refusing to supply the chicken that was coming from Quebec with Ontario-grown birds, even though it has done that for all other Ontario chicken-processing companies.

That issue is under a constitutional challenge, but the court date originally scheduled for February has been pushed back to April. The issue is restraint of free trade among the provinces.

The bureaucracy is a combination of officials in the federal trade department who deal with applications to import when the Canadian market can’t supply what’s required, and those officials asking the national supply management system managers whether they can find the required chicken.

Jimmy Lee, owner of CAMI, asked for a supplementary import permit so he could supply his clients with New York dressed chicken – i.e. head and feet on.

The federal trade department turned him down on the basis that Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. of Norval could supply dressed chicken.

“But it’s not the same product at all,” says Lee, because the head and feet have been removed.

Lee’s lawyer has applied for a judicial review of that decision.

Lee notes that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has worked out a deal with the national chicken industry that allows chicken parts to be used in place of whole birds when considering an application for a supplementary import permit, and vice versa.

But there is no substitute in Canada for New York dressed chicken because CAMI International Poultry Inc. is the only processor doing them,  Lee said.

New York dressed chicken is popular with some ethnic communities, especially Chinese.

Chinese New Year is fast approaching on Feb. 10 and Lee wants to get chicken in the week prior to the festival to keep his many customers supplied.

He would ideally like to have live birds.

“We’re in a bind,” Lee said.

What I'd like to know is who is enforcing the federal and provincial governments' requirement that the marketing boards keep the Canadian market supplied. It's part of the bargain - what the Canadian public gets in return for allowing farmers to control production volumes to achieve consistent and relatively high prices.