Canadians Support Farmers
“Why do grocery stores not sell enough Canadian products? ”

OP Ed by Larry Miller MP

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There is no doubt in my mind that Canadians support their local farmers and those producing and processing food throughout Canada. We see this with the resurgence of local farmers markets, the 100 mile diets and the increased consumption of beef in Canada that we saw following the BSE crisis.

However it is not always easy for Canadian consumers to do so. Not all stores even stock local meats and produce. There is intense competition between suppliers for the shelf space in today’s mega-mart grocery chains. The food supply system is increasingly vertically integrated and profit margins have become narrower for farmers over the years. Stores have invented new ways to generate revenue and make a profit but have not passed those increased revenues on to farmers. Nowadays, suppliers have to purchase shelf space in the stores of grocery chains; even those that are franchised out to independent owners. Smaller independent stores have difficulty competing with the big box stores in the industry that often control the distributors and much of the supply chain. I believe the charging for shelf space and exclusive contracting should be banned or further limited if it continues to push out Canadian products and drive out small independent grocery stores that have often made local products a priority.

These changes in our food supply have evolved over many years and have made it difficult for farmers and others in the supply chain to get a share of the profits. It is even more difficult to find local produce or even Canadian produce on the shelves of our local grocery stores. Don’t be shy. Demand that your local grocery store stock a full selection of Canadian products. It is clear that the only way the larger stores and grocery chains will stock local Canadian products is if Canadians ask for it.

When Canadians go to the grocery store, they want to be able to bring home Canadian food to serve their families. As a government we have made it easier for Canadian’s to identify Canadian products. We have redefined Product of Canada and Made in Canada food labelling guidelines to ensure Canadian families know what is Canadian Grown when they go to the grocery store.

Canadians know it’s unacceptable to hide foreign ingredients under a Product of Canada label.
Canadians want food labels that better reflect the Canadian content of products in today’s global marketplace and give our farmers, producers and processors the credit they deserve. Manufacturers are now only allowed to use the Product of Canada label, if “all or virtually all” of the contents are Canadian.

The Made in Canada label will be used if a food product is manufactured or processed in Canada, regardless if the ingredients are domestic or imported. Other statements or claims can be used (if they are truthful and not misleading for consumers). However, in the interest of responding to consumer expectations, the Government of Canada will encourage industry use of Product of Canada and Made in Canada.
 

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18/09/2009 05:35 PM


There is presently a move on by a lot of processors to have the new content rule for product of Canada reduced. I am very opposed to that. When the rule was put in place, the intent was that all, or virtually all of the significant main ingredients be produced wholly in Canada with a special exception for minor food additives, spices, vitamins, minerals and flavouring preparations such as sweeteners. The estimated percentage that has been mentioned as an example has been 98% of the main ingredients should be Canadian to receive the product of Canada Label.

Let’s use strawberry jam for an example. As long as 98°% of the strawberries used in that jam are Canadian grown, it should qualify. Consumers are not so much concerned about where the sugar in that jam is produced. They want to know that those strawberries are Canadian. The processors want the number lowered to something like 85% so that they can add up to 15% foreign strawberries instead of 2%. Don`t be fooled. They don`t want any limit imposed.

Some have said that some jams contain as much as 30% sugar and this cannot be produced in Canada. Notwithstanding that people probably shouldn’t be consuming that much sugar, it is not true that Canada does not produce sugar. Sugar is currently produced in Alberta and Canada has a number of regions with suitable soil for sugar production that historically grew sugar beets and may once again if international subsidies are reduced. Currently there may not be enough of a supply of Canadian sugar, but over time a niche market for Canadian sugar may develop to meet consumer demands for a purely Canadian product.

This Government knows Canadians want to buy local, they want to support Canadian farmers and they want to know which foods are Canadian. This Government is taking action to make sure Canadian families have the information they need to make informed food decisions. I invite everyone to visit www.inspection.gc.ca to learn more about Product of Canada and Made in Canada claims on food labels.

Finally, I want to be clear that Canada is a trading nation and exports help to generate Canada’s high standard of living. Clearly we cannot produce every type of food or product at home in Canada. Free trade and open markets will continue to be important to Canada’s economic well being. It is ok for everyone to sample dishes from around the world, but we should support our producers or we won’t have them. Sometimes it may cost more to eat Canadian, but it is well worth it.

I think it is not too much to ask and is in fact important that Canadians can clearly identify Canadian products on the shelves so that they can make that decision to support local producers and processors here at home. Our new Product of Canada label allows them to do just that. A little national pride in our own products is something I think all Canadians would like to and should embrace.

Larry Miller, MP

 

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