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CETA could harm family-owned fine-cheese makers & farmer-owned co-operatives in Canada

The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will very likely harm cheese makers in Canada.

The Globe and Mail reports, “In July, the government is set to more than double the amount of European cheese imported into the country as part of the new [CETA]. This will mean an additional 17,700 tonnes of European cheese – a figure that represents about 4 per cent of current Canadian cheese production.”

That article adds, “The Dairy Processors Association of Canada (DPAC) estimates the change could result in the loss of $230-million annually to domestic producers and potentially up to 400 jobs.”

It also notes, “In a statement, an Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada spokesman pointed to two funding programs announced last year aimed at the dairy industry. That funding, totalling $350-million, is aimed at helping dairy farmers and dairy processors to modernize their production systems. But given that the government has not yet released details on how the CETA changes will be implemented – namely who will be allowed to import the EU products – groups such as DPAC say it’s too soon to know whether such funding will suffice.”

In an op-ed published in The Globe and Mail, Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois writes, “Since [CETA] was first signed in 2014 by the former Conservative government, the sector has been anxious, and rightly so. Ottawa had and still has no clear plans to make the Canadian cheese sector more competitive in response to an inflow of new, high-quality European cheese in the country.”

As for the $350 million ($250 million to make dairy farms more competitive, $100 million investment into dairy-processing facilities), Charlebois comments, “While signing trade deals, the former Conservative government was promising billions in compensation, raising expectations exponentially. So, of course, last fall’s announcement was a disappointment for the sector. Our dairy sector needs more, way more.”

Charlebois suggests, “To offset CETA’s negative impact the best tool the federal government has are the import quotas they are expected to issue soon. If the government is to do it right, many of the licences should go to those most affected by CETA.”

He highlights, “As such, priority should be given to small dairy processors, which are mostly family-owned fine-cheese makers. Farmer-owned co-operatives should also be considered in the mix as well, given their links to production. If not done right, we could see our dairy-processing sector suffer. CETA makes this sector highly vulnerable and many great Canadian artisan cheese makers could disappear.”

Bill C-30 is “An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures“. It must pass the Senate in order for CETA to be implemented in Canada. Montreal-based Council of Canadians trade campaigner Sujata Dey will be presenting to the Senate committee examining Bill C-30 on May 3.