Poultry producers await trade compensation

The industry asked for market development and innovation funds to make up for losses resulting from recent trade deal

RED DEER — Poultry and egg producers are waiting for details of an industry investment fund to compensate them for concessions made in recent free trade agreements.

“Recent trade agreements have led to a further erosion of our market. We have a big job to do in working with the government to deliver on the mitigation program following the deal we received in the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans- Pacific Partnership),” said Benoit Fontaine, chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada. Fontaine farms in Quebec where he raises broilers and turkeys.

“The government has committed that we have no more concessions to supply management in future trade deals. We have to hold the government to that promise,” he told the Alberta Chicken Farmers annual meeting held Feb. 25 in Red Deer.

The federal minister of agriculture created a poultry working group to support farmers impacted by the CPTPP and United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The dairy sector opted for direct payments from a $2.15 billion fund, but poultry and egg farmers asked for market development and innovation funds.

Details have not been released but farmers are hoping for an announcement later in March at national poultry annual meetings, said Roger Pelissero, chair of Egg Farmers of Canada.

“We took a different approach. We wanted to have programs with reinvestment to grow our market,” he said at the Alberta Egg Farmers meeting.

“We want tax incentives and public programs that are going to help us.”

Getting a cheque in the mail from government does not play well with the public, he said.

Producers need to think about how future trade agreements might affect the supply-managed sector. Future governments may be less supportive.

In response, egg farmers want to expand the domestic market. Under the USMCA, the United States gained a percentage of access to Canada’s egg market but as the industry expands, the American share shrinks.

“As we have grown our market in the last 15 years to the tune of 62 percent, their percentage of the market doesn’t change,” he said.

Producers at the meeting raised concerns there could be a loophole in the agreement where more U.S. eggs could come in because they have the ability to supply the entire Canadian market.

Pelissero said he has had assurances from the U.S. producer organizations, United Egg Producers and American Egg Board that they are not seeking more access to Canada. Instead, they are more interested in export markets outside of Canada.

“We will have to trust them on their word,” he said.

Upcoming negotiations with the Mercosur group of Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay need attention, said Michael LaLiberte, CFC executive director.

Brazil wants more access to Canada. It is the second largest source of chicken imports after the United States. In 2018 it shipped 11.1 million kilograms to Canada. The U.S. has a secured market allowing it to send more to Canada and under the World Trade Organization agreement, other countries are allowed 38.9 million kg in total.

“They want further access to our market. That is why we are holding the government accountable to making sure there is no further access in future trade negotiations,” said LaLiberte.

Producers at the meeting said they want assurances that imported goods are raised under the same standards that Canadian farmers must follow.

“One recommendation we made to the minister of agriculture and agri-food is to make sure that every kilogram of imports coming into Canada meets the same standards as what you are obligated to do in Canada, in terms of animal welfare and food safety,” he said.

“The government has been reluctant to do this but we are putting pressure on them to make sure these measures are met.”

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