Monday, October 22, 2012

Cami fighting to get chicken

Welland – Cami International Poultry Inc. is fighting on several fronts to get enough chicken to survive a squeeze put on its business by the Chicken Farmers of Ontario marketing board and its partner, the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors.

The two organizations signed an agreement with their Quebec counterparts to stop trade in live chickens between the two provinces.

Part of that agreement was an arrangement to replace birds that Ontario processors were buying in Quebec with birds raised by Ontario farmers, including the ones who can no longer ship their chickens to Quebec processors.

But Cami International Poultry Inc. was not given any Ontario chickens to replace the ones it has been buying from Quebec processors, effectively squeezing it out of the market.

Lawyer Alyssa Tomkins of CazaSaikaley LLP in Ottawa, has filed a constitutional challenge to get chickens for Jimmy Lee, who owns Cami.

On another front, Lee has filed an application for a supplementary import permit which would, if granted, give him the right to import chickens from the United States.

The federal trade officials will ask the chicken marketing boards if they can find enough chickens to satisfy Cami’s application and, if not, he will be able to import birds.

Ironically, those birds will be much cheaper than Ontario chickens raised under the umbrella of supply management. There will be no spin-off benefits for Ontario, such as production on Ontario farms, feed from Ontario mills, chicks from Ontario hatcheries and related industry services.

On a third front, Lee has hired a public relations firm in Ottawa to press his case with federal and provincial politicians and civil servants.

Lee has developed a thriving market supply Hong Kong slaughter protocol birds – head and feet on – through a plant that uses air chilling and hand slaughter.

He has also developed a large and loyal clientele in the Chinese markets in and around Toronto.
Lee said that the Ontario market right now is facing an overall shortage of chicken, so he expects to gain the right to import from the U.S.

The market is tight because that’s the policy of the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors who, together with the Ontario marketing board, tell the national supply-management agency how many chickens they think the Ontario market requires.

There is provision to apply for extra birds for “market development”, but unlike other provinces, the Ontario board rations these extra birds on a pro rata basis which means that the lion’s share goes to the large-volume processors who have already said they don’t want more chicken.

But it also means that small companies with fast-growing niche-market clientele can’t get enough birds for their “market development”.

Frankly, I can't understand how government supervisory bodies, which are supposed to be looking out for the public's interests, can allow the marketing boards and processors to do this. 

But what I do understand is how the marketing boards use blatant intimidation tactics tow cow politicians into bowing to their every whim. 

It's precisely the type of special interest favours that annoy Canadians who pay and pay and pay every time they go grocery shopping or eat out at a restaurant or cafeteria.

Supply management was implemented to protect family farmers, but today it protects the nation's largest food processing companies and a tiny total of farmers who hold chicken quota worth more than $1 million per marketing board member. Some hold quota worth tens of millions.