Thursday, April 21, 2016

B.C. chicken farmers angry about Ontario

British Columbia’s chicken farmers are angry that Ontario has reduced chicken prices, forcing them to take the same cuts.

The price cuts began more than a year ago when the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission ordered the Ontario marketing board to reduce prices to reflect improvements in feed efficiency.

The commission followed that up with orders to make more cuts to reflect improving efficiencies flowing from increases in production volumes.

At the annual meeting of British Columbia’s association for chicken producers, president Ravi Bathe complained that prices now are the lowest in nine years and for some are not enough to cover costs.

I find that hard to believe. Surely if chicken farmers are losing money, they would cash in their quotas which in many cases amount to more than $1 million per farm. I don't see any evidence that farmers are selling out and pushing quota prices down.

The Farm Industry Review Board, British Columbia’s counterpart to the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission, has pegged B.C. prices to Ontario’s.

That has forced a reduction of 4.95 cents per kilogram.

Bathe said one of the reasons that’s not fair is that Ontario farmers can put more birds into their barns, but B.C. farmers are required to keep more space per bird so have to build more barns whenever their production allotments increase.

To rub a bit of salt into the wounds, Ontario recently and finally persuaded the national agency that it deserves the right to produce a greater percentage of the nation’s chicken.

But that sad history means B.C. and other provinces have for far too long held an unfair advantage over Ontario.

That’s being done by allocating a greater percentage of any increases in national production targets to Ontario.

Ontario is, in turn, using much of its increases to enable farmers without quotas to produce for specialty and niche markets.