Monday, October 22, 2012

Chicken board closes meeting

GUELPH – The Chicken Farmers of Ontario invited everyone involved in the chicken industry to a meeting here today, but barred reporters.

The meeting was the final in a series to update chicken farmers about marketing board issues, policies and plans.

The district meetings were for farmers only; today’s meeting was the only one open to a broader community, such as feed millers, chicken processors, service providers and government officials.

Judging by the chicken board’s website and most recent newsletter, they were told that the ban on trading live chickens with Quebec has been implemented smoothly.

There are, however, rumours that CAMI International Poultry Inc. of Welland is preparing a lawsuit, aiming to secure enough chicken to keep the plant operating. A lawsuit would probably include a "stay" that would allow CAMI to continue procuring chickens from Quebec producers who have signed contracts to supply CAMI.

The Ontario chicken board would not grant CAMI birds to replace the Quebec contracts it held; the board granted all other Ontario processors supplies from Ontario farmers to replace birds they were buying from Quebec producers.

The board has never said publicly why it refuses to supply CAMI.

CAMI International has developed a large clientele interested in its Hong Kong style (feet and heads left on) birds, air-chilled processing, hand slaughter and other specialties.

The ban on inter-provincial trade was negotiated by the Ontario and Quebec marketing boards and associations representing chicken-processing companies in both provinces and has been sanctioned by provincial government supervisory bodies for both provinces.

CAMI is not a member of the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors. The association's members include three large companies - Maple Leaf, Maple Lodge and Cargill - that dominate the Ontario and national chicken markets. 

They have consistently tried to limit Ontario chicken production so they will have no trouble marketing all the birds they process. They will not, for example, grant permission for even the smallest competitors to increase their share of birds produced by Ontario farmers to serve niche and local markets.

It’s not clear how the provinces have been able to square their approval of the trading ban in the face of their agreement to pursue free trade.