Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl is downplaying concerns of dairy farmers worried about a glut of foreign product now that Canada has signed a new trade agreement with the European Union (EU).
Strahl hailed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU as a boon to Canada's exporters and a benefit to consumers.
"This is great news for workers and families in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon," Strahl said in a press release issued Friday. "Increased trade will allow businesses to hire more workers and provide consumers with greater choices and lower prices."
Of some concern in the deal is what it will mean for dairy farmers, specifically small and local Canadian cheesemakers.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada expressed anger and disappointment with the deal "as the reality is that Canada would lose its small, artisan and local cheese makers and a world-leading industry with top quality products—within a short time frame."
Strahl, however, emphasized that supply management for dairy has been maintained and the deal will in fact help local cheese makers who will get access to 500 million more customers.
As part of the deal, the EU will be allowed to export an additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese to Canada annually, something the Dairy Farmers of Canada said will kill local business. Strahl, however, said the amount is actually small.
The new quota represents just 4.2 per cent of the Canadian cheese market, he said, adding that cheese consumption is on the rise and the imports will be absorbed by the market.
One local cheesemaker agreed with Strahl's assessment. Debra Amrein-Boyes of The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz told the Times she didn't think the deal will negatively affect her family's business at all.
"This deal increases the amount of European cheese allowed imported into the country, but it works out to be about one pound per person," Amrein-Boyes, who is a member of the International Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de St. Uguzon, said via email. "If Canadian cheesemakers are not able to produce local fine cheese, then we will certainly suffer, but I believe consumers are already choosing locally made products for their quality. The market for quality local cheeses is only increasing, which in my opinion will in any case outweigh the sales in imported cheese."
Overall, Strahl emphasized the government's CETA talking points, namely, that the deal is expected to boost Canada's income by $12 billion annually, the equivalent to the creation of 80,000 jobs. "Our government has defended the interests of our supply managed sector while reaching an agreement that creates economic opportunities for Canadians throughout our economy," said Strahl.
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