Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ontario pleas for more chicken ignored

The national agency for chicken has once again given Ontario a smaller production increase than the national average and considerably less than Quebec.

According to data the agency released this week, Ontario’s farmers will be allowed to produce up to 52.8 million kilograms in quota period A-122 that begins Jan. 26.

That’s an increase of seven-tenths of one per cent over the same time last year. Quebec’s increase is 1.5 per cent, the same as the national increase.

New Brunswick’s increase is 3.2 per cent and Nova Scotia’s is 5.6 per cent.

The Ontario marketing board has been pleading for more quota so it can provide chickens to processing plants that have lined up customers for niche markets.

Among those pleading for more quota are CAMI International Poultry whose customers for Hong-Kong dressed birds (head and feet on) have been forced to go without since the beginning of the year and those who were buying kosher birds from Thai Kosher Poultry of Toronto until that company sold its chicken-supply quota to Sargent Farms.

Ontario proposed a new policy to allocate birds to develop new markets, but the province’s dominant processors, represented by the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors objected.

The processors filed an appeal with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food’s Appeal Tribunal, but that appeal was shelved when the processors and the chicken board resumed negotiations.

In the meantime, CAMI has launched two lawsuits, one to force the Ontario board to replace the birds it was buying from Quebec farmers until the marketing boards in both provinces implemented a ban on selling chickens to processors in the other province, the other to force the federal government to issue supplementary import permits so CAMI can buy birds in the United States that it can’t get in Canada.

All of this is taking place with international free-trade negotiations in the background with Canada’s trading partners requesting major reductions in the Canadian tariffs that enable the chicken board to charge relatively high prices and to keep supplies in Canada tight.

The case for Ontario to pull out of the national agency and produce all the chicken all of the processors want gets more compelling with every meeting of the directors of the national agency.

With free trade looming, Ontario could join Alberta, which has served notice it's out come Jan. 1, and begin the transition to the more competitive marketplace.

On the other hand, the marketing boards and dominant processors could continue to hold hands as the ship goes down.