OTTAWA — The Trudeau government’s response to the war in Ukraine has come at the expense of Canadian farmers on two fronts: added fertilizer costs and — as it turns out — potential lost chicken meat sales displaced by imported Ukrainian chicken.
Ottawa’s 35 % tariff on Russian fertilizer (unique in the G7) has made headlines for the past year. Lesser known is the government’s special June 2022 order granting more goods tariff-free entry into Canada from Ukraine — beyond an existing free trade agreement — and that includes frozen chicken, a product normally subject to high tariffs as a key tenet of Canada’s supply-managed poultry sector.
Chicken Farmers of Canada director of public affairs and communications Lauren Kennedy told Farmers Forum last month that no Ukrainian chicken “has arrived yet in Canada, but we are expecting some imports soon.”
The order, which was issued about a month after the prime minister visited Ukraine in May last year, is set to expire in June 2023. The Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC) don’t want it renewed, a position supported in a February 2023 letter from the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food to the Canadian agriculture minister.
In testimony at the committee late last year, officials with the CFC reported that potentially large volumes of frozen chicken could be imported from Ukraine in quantities that may persist in the domestic market for up to a year after the end date of the order.
They complained there was no advance notice of the order, and they warned about insufficient biosecurity and food-safety measures in Ukraine — including lack of avian flu reporting — given the wartime circumstances of that country.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) must sign off on the safety of the product and approve export certificates for Ukrainian meat, before the product is allowed into Canada.
“Given the past few years of uncertainty related to the global pandemic, and now seeing that there’s a war in Ukraine, this urgent desire to issue the export certificates, despite the risks associated with Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, is both questionable and concerning,” Norwood-area producer and CFC Chair Tim Klompmaker told the committee.
“We understand the need to support Ukraine, but we want to ensure that Canada’s efforts do not undermine the food safety of Canadians and the credibility of CFIA.”
Ukraine’s chicken meat industry is slightly larger than Canada’s, employing 100,000 people and exporting 40 % of its output.