Ceta The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, erases tariffs on 98% of products traded between the two zones. It is not yet a tornado, but already more than a squall. Canadian cheeses have their place of choice jostled in their own dairies.
A very protected market
By opening duty-free European dairy product valves, the foundations of the Canadian agricultural production control system have been weakened. Since 1972, in Canada, the principle of "supply management" has prevailed, giving the dairy industry a little protectionist taste. This national framework leaves little room for highly taxed imports. It is the authorities of the country that set the price of the liter of milk and each dairy farm inherits a production quota. Thanks to this, no shortage or surplus, the total amount produced is the same as that consumed in the country. This guarantees farmers a stable income and protects them from foreign competition.
Canada has agreed to increase its European cheese import quota by 17,000 tonnes
But the Ceta came to kick the anthill, lashing Charles Langlois, president of the Conseil des Industriels Dairy du Québec: "Canada has sold a portion of the market, a share that dairy farmers will not be able to supply, retailers are forced to import. "
With an increase of 17,000 tonnes in the cheese import quota, the shock will not be easy to absorb for the Canadian market. In the last ten years, per capita consumption of cheese has slightly increased and there is no indication that fans will suddenly double their purchases. The volume of the market is controlled, it is not expandable at will. European cheeses trample the flowerbeds of the premises.
An overpriced milk
Charles Langlois claims that the deal was signed while Europe already had a few clear spots in the Ceta game: "It's easier to make cheaper cheese in France, your milk is 40% cheaper than here. " The price of local cheese is indeed weighed down by the cost of its main ingredient. According to a study by Laval University in Quebec City, the price of a liter of milk in one kilo of Quebec Camembert cheese is $ 6.32 ($ 4.27), compared with $ 3.45 Canadian ( 2.30 euros) in a French Camembert.
"The European dairy industry is older and there is more volume "still revolts Charles Langlois. "Ceta reduces the size of our market. Making cheese in Canada is no longer competitive, because the quality of European products is similar, but at lower prices. The retailer, if he wants to keep a little margin, it's sure he can be tempted by products from Europe. "
The opening to European products, without tariff barriers, will increase in Canada in the next four years. By 2022, European cheese imports could account for 4% of the Canadian market.
Local purchase, hello
Martin, who works at the dairy Lait-tu grown in Montreal, listens to the screams of the industry with a small smile. "Certainly, French cheeses are more accessible than before … But customers always come to ask me for Quebec products! " he says, advising local goat cheeses to two tourists. "People have an attachment to local products, we want to help each other. The small cheese factories, the craftsmen, are not afraid of Ceta. The mouth is attached to the heart. We make excellent cheeses that have nothing to envy to those of old countries. "
"People have an attachment to local products"
But he understands that industry can nightmarish face the arrival of massive Counties PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or butter President. From industrial to artisanal, which consumers may prefer to Canadian products. "Butter President, yes, it can hurt the butter from here. Quality is better at lower prices. On the other hand, it can push industry to improve their products ", concedes Martin.
The cheese maker hopes that customers will think more about the planet than their wallet and will continue to buy locally. "Buffalo mozzarella is good, but it must be eaten during the day", he recalls. "What's best, whether it's flying from Italy, going through a distributor or getting it delivered here by a local producer on a weekly basis? I believe that customers also think about the environment when they buy Quebec. "
The failed lobbying of elected officials
It is the bill for the planet that Canadian MPs, including the leader of the New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh – the third party in the last election – have brandished to try to convince their French counterparts not to ratify the Ceta. Lost sentence, the National Assembly voted in the heart of the heat wave, July 23, a small majority (266 against 213). In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau judged the move unfortunate.
It must be said that the head of the Canadian government had presented the treaty as futuristic in Montreal, while he was already twenty years late, said Eve-Lyne Couturier, researcher at the Institute for Research and Socio-Economic Information ( Iris). "The treaty is not binding in terms of greenhouse gas emissions", she denounces.
The researcher considers that the climate veto – a provision of the agreement that allowed a state to prevent a company from using a product banned by one of the member countries – was emptied of its substance by becoming a merely advisory opinion . "The veto exists, of course, but it's very shy. And with these big agreements like Ceta, in the dairy industry as well as in the beef sector, we favor companies that are able to meet a global demand, we strengthen a volume industry. By multiplying the exchanges, there is necessarily a cost for the planet. These agreements have nothing to do with global warming. "
America to the rescue
Canadian MPs also alerted their counterparts to the losses Ceta could cause to farmers on both sides of the Atlantic. But for the French dairy producers, the agreement looks like a bargain. In 2018, French exports of their products to Canada increased by 19%.
French exports of dairy products to Canada increased by 19% in 2018
In the opposite direction, specialty cheeses sent from Canada to the EU are up 10%. Faced with the attraction of European consumers for its specialty, poutine, Quebec has been this summer to export to France its famous cheese grain, called "scouic scouic" cheese, for the noise it makes eating it. Essential ingredient of the famous Quebec dish, it must be placed on the fries before adding the hot sauce. Will the craze be enough to keep the demand constant?
If, in the Canadian domestic market, there is too much pressure from European products, the export of value-added fine cheeses to the United States could serve as a salute for Canadian producers. The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (SCMTA), a new Alena with Trump sauce ratified only in Mexico at the moment, could give Canada the opportunity to sell an additional 6250 tonnes of cheese to US retailers, free of duty. here 2026.
Canadian beef recaled at the border
Europe was shivering with the arrival of Canadian meat, doped with hormones. But even if Canada hoped that beef and pork producers would sell for $ 1 billion Canadian to the EU, the country's meats remained docked. According to Statistics Canada, the country has exported less than 1,000 tonnes of beef to the Union (compared to 600,000 elsewhere in the world). This figure is increasing, of course, but the volume exported represents only 2% of the quota authorized by Ceta. Blame the requirements of Europe, which does not want meat fed animal meal.
The EU imported only 2% of the beef quota
As a result, the agreement does not yet please all Canadian agricultural producers, but Justin Trudeau can still put it in the box of successes ahead of the federal election this fall. The country's total exports to the EU climbed by 7.7% between 2017 and 2018. Among the good students, milk is a long way off. Canada focuses on minerals and health. Aluminum exports lead the way, they have tripled in a year. Pharmaceutical products have increased by half.
Ottawa also wanted to reassure dairy farmers by signing a big check to offset, in part, losses in sight because of these new agreements. The federal government has just announced a new aid of 1.75 billion Canadian dollars (1.2 billion euros), in addition to the 250 million announced last year (170 million euros). It will last eight years. The sums should arrive on the accounts of producers before Christmas. According to the Union des producteurs de l'Estrie, in Quebec, for a medium-sized farm, annual assistance will be close to $ 30,000 in the first year. Then the amount will decrease by half during the next seven years. Some breeders are reassured, others criticize support limited in time, while the consequences of the agreement are irreversible.