Thursday, December 19, 2013

Question for Ontario Premier & Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne

I understand that Ontario's Premier Wynne will be doing a call-in Q&A session on CBC Radio – Sudbury on Thursday Dec. 19th, 2013.  I respectfully request consideration of the following question to be put to Premier Wynne at that time.

If this question doesn't make it to air on CBC Radio, perhaps Premier Wynne would like to send an answer to Small Flockers on her own initiative.  Alternatively, some aware and inquisitive MPP might stand at Queens Park and ask the government this question.

             As Agriculture Minister, on Oct. 7th you called for the doubling of agri-food exports from Ontario, thereby creating 120,000 new jobs before 2020.  Do you expect Ontario’s Supply Management chicken sector to support and participate in achieving that goal?

Follow-up Question

Domestic chicken prices are more than twice the price of chicken on the international export markets.  If Canada was to export significant quantities of chicken, we’d find no buyers at our sky-high domestic prices, or we would soon be slapped with WTO trade complaints for dumping chicken on the international market that was priced significantly lower than our domestic prices.  This would seem to explain why Canada only has 1.4% market share for OECD chicken exports.  If Canada was to gain just 50% OECD market share, Canada would have to produce 5 times more chicken than what we do today.  It is estimated that Ontario’s share of that would be $10.8 Billion per year of additional economic activity.

Premier, would you support the lowering of the price charged to Canadians for chicken, thereby helping Canadians with more affordable food, while simultaneously enabling up to $10.8 Billion per year of additional economic activity and many new jobs for Ontario?

Background Facts
  1. Health Canada reports that 7.6% of Canadians cannot afford the food they need to feed their families.  Ontario is 8.2%, which is 11% worse than the Canadian average.  The local foodbank near my home reports, like many other foodbanks in Ontario, that usage of their services is climbing at over 20% per year for the last 3 years.  I conclude there is a greater & greater need for affordable food in Ontario.
  2. Remote and rural communities in the North, and many others need the affordable food and local jobs produced by locally grown chicken.  Unfortunately, there are just 1,114 Supply Management chicken producers, all in Southern Ontario.  There are about 13,500 small flock chicken farmers throughout Ontario, but they are prevented or severely restricted in supplying affordable chicken for their local communities.
  3. Canadians in general, including us in Ontario, currently pay between 200% to 300% more for chicken, as compared to US prices (depending on the cut & the store & time of year).  The Chicken Farmers of Ontario have continuously raised the price of chicken by 3.54% per year for more than 17 years.  Historically, chicken was the "Meat for the Masses" (ie. the cheapest meat available on a $/kg basis), but is now double the price of turkey.    These price increases have been a severe burden on Ontario citizens.
  4. The Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") used trickery and lack of regulatory oversight to over-charge Ontario citizens with a bogus FCR (Feed Conversion Ratio), which inflated their alleged costs to raise chickens, thereby gaining more than their "reasonable costs".  This resulted in excess charges to Canadians of about $1 Billion per year for more than 10 years, for a total of more than $10 Billion that was unjustly charged to Canadians.  After years of complaints by numerous victims, the Ontario government finally ordered CFO to reduce their bogus FCR by 16.3% as of August 2013.  Do the Supply Management chicken farmers get to keep their ill gotten gains of $10 Billion they took from Canadians?
  5. As food becomes less and less affordable, people compensate by buying cheaper, less nutritious foods; usually higher in carbohydrates.  Poor nutrition causes or contributes to many of the health epidemics that we have today, such as obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction, Alzheimer's, Metabolic Syndrome, stroke, cancer, etc.
  6. The Supply Management system condones & supports the regular feeding of antibiotics and other drugs to chickens as growth promoters, not because the chickens are sick, nor to keep them healthy, but so they can earn extra profits.  These drugs & chemicals significantly alter the birds health, metabolism, and the resulting nutritional profile of the resulting meat.
  7. The current Supply Management system produces chicken such that 30% to 80% of the raw chicken being sold at grocery store meat counters is contaminated with deadly pathogens (eg. E.Coli, campylobacter, listeria, salmonella, etc.) , some of which are superbugs with antibiotic resistance due to the Supply Management's bad habit of regularly feeding chickens antibiotics, contrary to Health Canada recommendations.
  8. The insiders of the Supply Management system have had ongoing arguments amongst themselves (ie. province to province, producer to processor, processor to processor, etc.), and even the insiders say the system is significantly flawed and dysfunctional.  Ontario has been repeatedly denied the right to produce adequate amounts of chicken to feed our Ontario citizens and Ontario chicken processing businesses.  Alberta has given up and is abandoning the chicken Supply Management system as of Dec. 31, 2013 unless a "Hail Mary" rescue can be achieved in the next few weeks.
  9. Today, there is little to no Canadian chicken exported; neither from Ontario nor the rest of Canada.  Canada has only 1.4% market share of OECD chicken exports.  The reason is that the high domestic prices make it uneconomical for other countries to purchase the chicken at Canadian domestic prices, and to lower the price for Canadian export chicken invites other countries to lodge WTO complaints against Canada dumping chicken on international markets (ie. export pricing lower than domestic pricing is defined as "dumping" under WTO rules).  Alternatively, if we lowered Canadian chicken prices, we could export, and in exporting we could go from 1.4% market share to maybe as much as 50% OECD market share.  At 50% market share, that means Canada could then grow 5 times more chicken than what we do today.  Since Ontario has about 1/3 of the Canadian production, this would mean an additional $10.5 Billion of GDP for Ontario, and thousands of additional, permanent, good paying jobs.
  10. The Chicken Supply Management system isn't interested in exporting because that's too much like work.  They're happy with their 99.97% domestic market share at 200% to 300% gouging pricing that most people in Ontario are forced to pay, or go without chicken (ie. Hobson's Choice ).

All of the above is based upon, and supported by the objective evidence presented on our Blog

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada


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