Saturday, May 14, 2016

Scott Graham lobbies Senate on eggs

Scott Graham, chairman of the Egg Farmers of Ontario marketing board, recently made a strong pitch to the Senate Agriculture Committee on behalf of the board’s 330 members.

He said the board’s supply management policies and members ensure Canadians have a reliable supply of high-quality eggs at a fair market price.

He did not say how high Canada’s tariff rates are to protect these board members, nor can that information be found on websites for the Ontario and national supply-management agencies or their federal and provincial government supervisory bodies.

Instead you can learn that Canadians spend less of their income on eggs than most citizens of other countries.
The tariffs are more than 200 per cent, resulting in much higher retail egg prices in Canada than the United States.

And that puts the lie to another claim Graham made, and is often made by the marketing board members - that Canadian subsidies to the egg industry are much lower than other countries.

In fact, supply management is a consumer-funded subsidy that amounts to one of the highest rates in the world. It also means that both rich and poor are "taxed" because of the high egg prices whereas many other countries use general taxes to subsidize their egg farmers. Usually poor people in those countries pay low or no general taxes.

He said Canada’s marketing boards were able to successfully contain outbreaks of avian influenza that devastated the industry in the United States, mainly because of better communications, biosecurity measures and co-ordination.

The average flock size for about 1,000 quota-holding Canadian egg farmers is 22,000 hens compared with an average of 1.5 million for U.S. egg producers, he said.

What obviously flows from that is the conclusion that Canada's industry significantly lags in economies of scale.

He said the Ontario board supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, but seeks clarification on the proposal to auction tariff-rate quotas for a period of the first seven years under the new deal.

Tariff-rate quotas enable the holders to import eggs without duty and therefore hold high value. They are administered by federal trade officials.

Under the TPP, tariff-rate quotas will increase by 19 million dozen eggs by the time the deal is fully implemented over an 18-year period.

The deal has not yet been fully accepted by the 12 nations and there is opposition from some quarters in Canada and from all of the candidates seeking to become president of the United States.

Graham boasted that the egg industry has improved productivity, reduced mortality rates and reduced environmental impacts.

He said egg production in Canada increased by 50 per cent over the last 50 years and reduced its environmental footprint by 50 per cent.

He said the industry generates 61 per cent less acid rain, 68 per cent less nitrogen and phosphorous pollution and 72 per cent less greenhouse gases.

Hens lay 50 per cent more eggs in their lifetime and mortality rates have declined by 75 per cent, Graham said in the context of caged housing.

All of these environmental claims have nothing to do with the Canadian supply management system; similar or greater gains have been achieved in most other nations.

Ontario farmers hold 40 per cent of the national market.