Monday, December 8, 2014

Mulroney calls for end to supply management

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney says Canadians should be “considering” an end to supply management for the dairy and poultry sectors because that would open “enormous export potential,” particularly in Asian markets.

He was given a standing ovation after he made the remarks in a keynote address to the Grow Canada Agricultural Conference in Ottawa recently.

He is by far the most prominent Conservative Party politician to break ranks and call for negotiations to end supply management.

Martha Hall Findlay, who failed in her bid for leadership of the Liberal Party, is the only other prominent Canadian politician to oppose continuation of supply management for dairy and poultry farmers.

Mulroney said “we should give some consideration of a careful, innovative and generous phase out of our supply management programs for dairy and poultry.”

The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that buying out farmers’ quotas could cost between three and five billion dollars.

What nobody's saying these days is that it's no longer the farmers who are at the greatest risk. It's the chicken, turkey and to a lesser extent the dairy processing companies that have failed to keep pace and could be virtually wiped out if tariffs decline substantially.

Supply management has been on the hot seat at many international trade negotiations, and in particular at the World Trade Organization negotiations which identified sharp reductions in agricultural subsidies and import barriers as the top priority in this round of negotiations.

The issue is so contentious, however, that the negotiations have dragged on for more than a decade and there is little hope of reaching a deal soon.

On the other hand, those in favour of reaching a deal say it would be worth many times as much as all of the foreign aid to the world’s developing nations.