Monday, November 3, 2014

Chicken deal collapses

Members of the national chicken marketing agency thought they had a deal July 8 on dividing the national pie into provincial pieces.

Alberta, which pulled out of the national agency at the end of last year, seemed satisfied with this deal.

But, reports Ron Friesen of the Manitoba Cooperator, “Ontario held back.”

There has been nothing posted on the Ontario board’s website about this situation. 

But, then again, there has always been a lot of secrecy surrounding what the Ontario chicken board is up to.

Friesen says “another agreement appeared close on September 9 but Nova Scotia, with only a small fraction of Canada’s chicken supply, inexplicably balked.

“Nova Scotia subsequently put forward a counter proposal, which was discussed in mid-October.”

No announcement came from that meeting. I guess there's still no deal.

This is beyond ludicrous. It is an arrogant abuse of the privilege of supply management.

But it begs the question of why the National Farm Products Council, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and Prime Minister Stephen Harper allow this to continue. I guess Canadian consumers don't count for diddly-squat.

Friesen says the Canadian Chicken Poultry and Egg Processors Council is watching the situation carefully because differential growth will influence its chicken supplies.

Not only are they watching closely, Friesen. They are meddling. They are as responsible as farmers for inexplicable and unconscionable  situations in the national chicken industry.

“At the end of the day, we all signed an agreement in 2001 that said there would be differential growth based on comparative advantage and we’ve never implemented it,” said Wayne Hiltz, Manitoba Chicken Producers executive director.

In other words, that agreement is not worth the paper it was written on. And the promises made by the provincial chicken boards are meaningless.

For decades, Ontario has argued that there should be “differential growth” to reflect population and consumer demand. The other provinces and the processors have consistently throttled Ontario.

Why Ontario remains in the national agency is a good question. It's not to preserve supply management, as was argued back in the days when imports were controlled by quotas which depended on Canada maintaining national supply management.

Now imports are restricted by tariffs which will exist whether or not there is national supply management.

Alberta has pulled out of the national agency, not once, but twice, to gain the right to grow more chickens. Why not Ontario? 

The national agency is so dysfunctional that several times, when innovative retailers and processors in Ontario have launched new products, they’ve been unable to source chickens in Ontario while the national agency has allocated more birds to far-away provinces, such as Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.

Ontario wimped out every time, even sometimes watching U.S. chicken come into Ontario to meet demand.

I recall writing about Elmira Poultry being so short of chicken it trucked eviscerated chicken from Newfoundland where they were grown with feed subsidized by the federal and provincial governments at a processing plant built with provincial funding. And in a province where the son of former Premier Jimmy Smallwood was the largest quota holder.

Glenn Black wonders why he can't persuade the chicken industry to adopt his sensible proposal to allow non-quota-holding farmers to grow up to 2,000 chickens a year.

That's nit-picking in comparison with the ludicrous inequities that persist in the industry.