‘Feather’ farmers assured trade compensation coming

Funds are part of a 10-year program announced last fall to make up for market concessions made in trade agreements

Egg Farmers of Alberta received assurances March 2 that federal government compensation for market loss from trade agreements will come soon.

Roger Pelissero, chair of Egg Farmers of Canada, said payment details on the $691 million for Canada’s chicken, egg, broiler, hatching egg and turkey farmers could be announced later this month or in early April.

“We’re hoping that by a little bit later this spring that there will be an announcement how the producers can start to access those funds,” he said. “We’re still working with the mitigation team and the other supply management sectors in the feather area regarding those programs.”

The funds are part of a 10-year program announced by federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in November 2020 to compensate the sectors for market concessions made by the government in two international trade agreements.

Pelissero said the funds would not be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

“The government is building a program where they want success and you don’t need to worry. There will be a long window for farmers to be able to access that money.”

The national egg chair said the egg industry has been able to navigate massive domestic market swings caused by the pandemic in large part because of its systems.

“We’re fortunate to have a range of tools and policies at our disposal to respond to changing conditions and manage the risk to our industry. It’s worth mentioning that the most critical tool we have is the tool of supply management.

“We’ve known this for a long time and that supply management offers many benefits and this was greatly demonstrated during this crisis and as we continue to live through the crisis because it’s not over yet.”

Domestic demand for eggs skewed toward retail during the pandemic as consumers began to cook more at home and food service was curtailed. At one point last year there was a 30 percent increase in retail demand for eggs, which averaged out to a 10 percent increase for 2020, Pelissero said.

On the food service side, demand was down by as much as 70 percent at times last year and averaged out at a 27 percent reduction in that market during 2020.

Millions of eggs were distributed to Canadian food banks after being redirected from usual markets altered by the pandemic.

Pelissero also reported that 62 percent of Canadian egg producers are still using conventional housing. The industry is transitioning to other production systems that allow more space for hens to express their natural behaviours.

Alberta has 169 registered egg producers, who have about 2.78 million hens. Together they produced 76,534,500 dozen eggs in 2020, which was a nine percent increase over the previous year.

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