Wednesday, November 27, 2013

No more chicken for Ontario kosher market

The Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency has once again turned down Ontario’s request for specialty-market production rights, specifically to supply the kosher market.

The directors from other provinces and those representing processors voted against Ontario at agency meetings again this week, turning down Ontario’s longstanding requests for the right to increase chicken production to satisfy market demand, particularly for niche markets.

Ontario’s kosher market was shorted when Thai Kosher Poultry of Toronto was bought by Sargent Farms which does not process to kosher standards.

That left those who want kosher birds trying to meet their needs from a processor in Montreal, but that processor is charging significantly higher prices.

There is a group in Toronto that wants to revive the Thai Kosher plant to process for the kosher market, but it can’t buy chickens under the marketing board’s policies to ration supplies among processors.

It will not make chickens available to newcomers and, in fact, is also shorting CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland so it’s unable to meet the demand for Hong Kong dressed birds (heads and feet on) that are popular with Asians. There is a huge Chinese population in the Greater Toronto area.

The Ontario chicken board has made a proposal to serve specialty markets, but the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors is opposed.

It filed an appeal with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Appeal Tribunal to block introduction of that policy, but withdrew earlier this year to undertake negotiations with the marketing board.

Those negotiations failed and so the appeal is on again, scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 at OMAF’s tribunal offices in Guelph.

However, even if the Ontario board wins that appeal, it would be left short of chicken for the Ontario market and would only be able to satisfy the requests for specialty markets by shorting others.

As for the CAMI situation, the judge handling CAMI’s challenge of an Ontario-Quebec deal that cut off CAMI’s access to Quebec-grown chicken has ordered the chicken board to stop stalling and let  the case proceed.

CAMI’s challenge of the federal government’s policy that keeps it from importing birds from the U.S. is stalled because the federal government has changed lawyers.

And where, pray tell, is Ontario Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne in the face of this persistent chicken-industry fiasco.

No doubt making speeches about growing the Ontario agriculture industry. Talk, talk, talk. Just another Toronto wind tunnel.