by SUSAN MANN
The low priority Ontario’s government places on how chicken supply gets divided among provincial processors, coupled with its failure to step in “and do the right thing” enables Chicken Farmers of Ontario to do whatever it wants, says a chicken industry spokesperson.
John Slot, general manager of the Ontario Independent Poultry Processors, says “what has become clear is there are some very serious issues in Ontario related to how the supply in Ontario gets divided among processors.”
The independent poultry processors group has launched an appeal of Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s specialty market policy to the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal. The hearing is scheduled for July 14 and 15 in the tribunal hearing room of the Ontario government building on Stone Road in Guelph.
Michael Edmonds, Chicken Farmers of Ontario director of communications and government relations, says by email they don’t comment on matters that are before the tribunal.
Susan Murray, spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, says by email the ministry recognizes the pressures on chicken supply related to specialty markets. “We know the industry is working toward satisfying the growing demand for specialty market chicken.”
But because the matter is before the tribunal “it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” she says.
Slot says about a year and a half ago representatives from the independent poultry processors, the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors and Chicken Farmers of Ontario formed a group that was chaired by the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission and that group developed a specialty market policy for Ontario. The independent poultry processors organization represents the small processors in Ontario while the Association of Ontario Chicken Processors is an industry trade association representing the larger processors in the province.
The group of chicken industry organizations successfully created a program “that the Ontario (chicken) board put in to regulations and asked members to put in applications for this policy,” Slot says. “Our members worked very hard to put in the applications.”
Slot says what they want the tribunal hearing to result in is that “the policy that we designed for Ontario will be implemented.”
The policy was slated to begin last summer. But there’s no doubt this is a thorny matter within the industry. Previously, the Ontario chicken processors association was the one to appeal the policy but withdrew its appeal earlier this year before it was scheduled to be heard in January. In an earlier interview, Mike Terpstra, Ontario chicken processors association executive director, says they withdrew the appeal because they expected their concerns to be addressed. Their main concern was the source of supply for specialty markets. They didn’t want existing markets to have to give up supply for specialty markets.
The policy developed by the Ontario groups was suspended by Chicken Farmers of Ontario while the Ontario chicken processors association was launching its appeal.
Chicken Farmers of Canada also developed a national specialty market policy, but it was put together after Chicken Farmers of Ontario had already come up with its policy, Slot explains. The two policies are different. Slot says the Ontario one recognizes “processing as being special, which is important in Ontario because of the Hong Kong style of chicken (birds with head and feet left attached to the body) and for the kosher market.” The Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) “policy only recognizes certain breeds of chicken” as being special, he notes, adding Chicken Farmers of Ontario “decided to support the CFC policy and not support their own policy.”
The independent poultry processors organization questions why Chicken Farmers of Ontario supports the CFC policy when it had its own made-in-Ontario policy designed by the Ontario industry for the province, Slot says, noting that is what they’re appealing to the tribunal. “The big issue is always where are the kilograms (of chicken) coming from?”
In May, Chicken Farmers of Ontario received an allocation of 287,000 kilograms of live chicken from Chicken Farmers of Canada for the A-126 quota period (Sept. 7 to Nov. 1). That allocation is in addition to its overall allocation for that quota period and will be used to produce two specialty breeds of chicken – Frey’s Special Dual Purpose and Silkies – to meet the growing Ontario ethnic consumer demand.
Slot says it’s their understanding all of the 287,000 kilograms were allocated to one processor – Wellington Poultry Ltd. of Arthur. “We’re very upset about that because if those kilograms were made available by CFC, then the Chicken Farmers of Ontario should at least have made them available to other processors also.”
Officials with Wellington Poultry couldn’t be reached for comment. Edmonds didn’t respond to questions asking him to confirm if Wellington Poultry is where those kilograms from CFC were allocated.
Last summer, the independent poultry processors group wrote to Premier and Agriculture Minister Kathleen Wynne asking for a meeting and requesting action on a number of matters, including that she supervise Chicken Farmers of Ontario in implementing the specialty market policy developed by the Ontario groups. BF