Thursday, June 22, 2017

Small-bird market is short of chicken

There has been a shortage of chickens in the lightest-weight category for months, and it’s getting worse.

There are a number of factors, according to various sources in the chicken industry, none of them willing to be quoted by name.

One is that it’s not as profitable for either farmers or processors to market chicken in the lightest-weight category. They make better margins on weightier birds.

Production of these light-weight birds was cut back first in Quebec where they now are simply not available, and now in Ontario.

One of the suppliers, Farm Fresh Poultry co-operative at Harriston has converted to organic chicken and is no longer processing the lightest-weight category.

Maple Lodge Farms Ltd. at Norval, near Brampton, is cutting back on the category and some of its customers have been told the company will no longer be able to service them.

That has, in turn, left some retailers in the lurch. For example, one company president said he has many Mom and Pop barbecue restaurants serving the Portuguese community in Toronto and they are not able to get the light-weight birds.

He said one customer may be forced into bankruptcy because he recently expanded to add three more locations for which he now is unable acquire chicken.

These Portugeuse businesses use imported cooking equipment which require the small birds.

A spokesman for one of the supply-management regulators involved in the shortage said there have already been successful applications for supplementary import permits.

Another related issue is reduced supply from the United States when the Canadian Border Services Agency began using DNA testing to distinguish boneless chicken breasts that are harvested from spent fowl or from broilers.

The national agency complained before that there was so much chicken being imported as spent fowl, for which there is no tariff, that the total was greater than the entire U.S. supply.

When that supply dropped, the Canadian supply-management system was not able to react immediately to fill the void, so there was a shortage.

The result is record-high, and still climbing, prices for boneless chicken breast meat.

And yet another factor has been the inability of Ontario to produce up to the increased limits granted under a new deal with the national agency.

For all but one of the quota periods in the last two years, Ontario has fallen short of filling its allocation. In the most recent quota period, it actually produced less than the comparable quota period last year.

One of the "explanations" that has been cited is a retrovirus that is impacting chick quality and supplies. Another is that Mexico has needed chicks from the U.S. and that has reduced the supply there, including the availability for Canadians.

One of the embarrassing issues for supply management is that part of its bargain with the public is that in return for being able to charge prices high enough to cover production costs and provide acceptable returns for labour, management and investment, it is to keep the Canadian market adequately supplied with wholesome chicken.


Nutrien is new name for fertilizer giant

Nutrien is the name that Potash Corporation of Canada and Agrium Inc. have chosen after their merger is completed.

They are awaiting regulatory approvals and expect the merger will be completed late this summer.

When the deal was announced last September, it was estimated the combined company would have a share value of $36 billion US.

The head office for Nutrien will be in Saskatoon where PotashCorp is based.

The organization will also keep a corporate office at Agrium's home city of Calgary.

Potash Corp. is the world’s largest potash-mining company and Agrium is the largest fertilizer retailer.

Another tart shell recall

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has added three more companies’ tart shells to its list of products under recall because of potential contamination with E. coli 0121 in Robin Hood all purpose flour from Ardent Mills.

Tart shells are under recall from Remark Fresh Foods, 1190 Oxford St., London, from Zehr’s Country Market in Millbank and from Green’s Meat Market in Wingham.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hog farmer faces cruelty charges

A 27-year-old man now living in Tavistock faces eight animal cruelty charges after more than 1,200 pigs were found dead on his farm at Langton.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Crueltry to Animals laid the charges after receiving a complaint from a member of the public about conditions on the farm located 80 kilometres southeast of London.

Investigators found 1,265 dead pigs when they went to the farm Feb. 17.

The barn was dark and flooded in manure, the pigs had no food and The Ontario Pork marketing board was called in to help the surviving pigs in the barn, according to board chairman Eric Schwindt. 

He told the CBC he's shocked by what happened.

"It's something I've never come across in my 20 years in the pork industry," he told CBC London.

"This isn't the way farmers treat their livestock."

The pork board and Farm & Food Care Ontario have kept the scandalous situation secret.

Senate proposes Northern highway

A Senate committee is proposing a 7,000-kilometre highway for transportation east and west across Northern Canada.

The Senate Committee on Banking Trade and Commerce released its report this week likening the project to the Canadian Pacific Railway that nearly bankrupted Canada to build from coast to coast as part of the Confederation deal to bring British Columbia into the fold.

The senators say a start should be made by paying $5 million to the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy and the Montreal-based Center for Interuniversity Research and Analysis of Organizations to research the project. 

The report says the corridor will help Canada diversify its foreign markets by allowing companies to ship their goods to tidewater ports in the North.

It will also spur economic growth, new job creation and provide benefits to Indigenous peoples and other northern residents.

Because the proposed national corridor would cross the traditional territories of a large number of Indigenous communities, the government must ensure they are actively involved from the beginning, the committee said. 

Their involvement in the corridor will be fundamental to its successful development.

In particular, the committee met with the First Nations Major Projects Coalition and the First Nations Financial Management Board who are in agreement with the plan as proposed by the committee.

“This bold and innovative project would create countless employment and economic opportunities for Indigenous communities, including through construction jobs, supplying builders and the acquisition of equity stakes in infrastructure projects,” the senators said in a news release about their proposal.

Other potential benefits of a national corridor include decreased traffic on southern highways and railways.  A corridor would also help Canada assert its Arctic sovereignty.