by SUSAN MANN
The farming community and the Canadian Dairy Commission should be commended for creating a new lower-priced milk class of shredded or diced mozzarella cheese for restaurant operators to use on fresh pizzas, says an outspoken dairy industry critic from the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.
The decision “shows that we can work together,” says Garth Whyte, association president and CEO. “We see it as a good first step.”
Graham Lloyd, Dairy Farmers of Ontario communications director and general counsel, says the creation of the new class “demonstrates supply management works in helping to grow the market.”
Whyte says farmers, restaurants and consumers will all benefit from the dairy industry’s decision to create the new class that is scheduled to come into effect April 1. The decision is a win for farmers “because we’re going to use up more dairy,” he explains. “It’s a win for restaurant owners because the price is going down so we can be competitive with frozen (pizza manufacturers), and it’s a win for consumers.”
Whyte says the decision by the Canadian Milk Supply Management Committee to introduce the new class fits in with the association’s goal of wanting to sell more dairy products.
Chantal Paul, spokesperson for the Canadian Dairy Commission, says the committee made the decision in January to implement the new class. “Now it’s in the hands of the technical people” to work out details and they’re putting together recommendations for the committee. Those recommendations haven’t yet gone to the committee.
Chaired by the commission, the milk supply management committee is a permanent body created by the provincial signatories to the National Milk Marketing Plan. It’s responsible for determining policy and supervising the plan’s operation.
Details, such as the price of the cheese in the class, administration and how the audits will be done still have to be finalized. Whyte says the price currently being discussed is 72 cents per kilogram. “The devil is in the details and we’re working with them on those details.”
Paul wouldn’t confirm that’s the price being discussed. The price restaurants pay for mozzarella cheese isn’t regulated. Restaurants negotiate the price they pay with processors.
Currently, restaurants don’t have a particular program or incentives that are part of the system, she says. “They’re just a buyer like a grocery store would be.”
The only regulated price at all times is the price dairy farmers get paid for their milk in various classes by processors, Paul says. How the new class would work is farmers would get paid a little less for the milk in the shredded and diced mozzarella cheese class for fresh pizza so there would be a price break given to processors making the cheese if they’re selling into that particular market. “The hope is that this price break will make it to the restaurant people and that’s why it’s so difficult and complicated to implement something like this,” she says.
But if that price break doesn’t make it to the restaurant owners, Paul says “I’m sure we’ll hear about it.”
Paul says even if the details aren’t finalized by April 1, the class would be made available retroactive to that date.
Whyte says from the association’s viewpoint, some of the key points that must be worked out is how to liaise with processors, that the system must be fair to all, and the registration process must be simple and easy for both restaurant owners and the dairy commission.
The association has argued for 15 years in favour of lower dairy prices and the creation of a special class of cheese prices for the restaurant industry. It also said previously that restaurateurs currently pay 30 per cent more for cheese than frozen pizza makers and that creates an uneven playing field. The association has more than 30,000 members representing restaurants, bars, caterers, institutions and other foodservice providers. BF