Milk­ing trade

The Central Voice - - Editorial -

It takes two to tango.

It’s a fa­mil­iar say­ing, and one that ap­plies as we ad­just to the pro­posed USMCA (the United States-Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment) re­place­ment for NAFTA.

The agree­ment still needs to be rat­i­fied by each re­spec­tive gov­ern­ment.

Let’s say it does pass.

It’s still a fair ques­tion to ask how re­cep­tive con­sumers will be to an in­flux of Amer­i­can dairy prod­ucts on store shelves, and to what ex­tent At­lantic Cana­dian gro­cers and re­tail­ers choose to carry dairy prod­ucts from south of the bor­der.

That’s where the tango be­gins.

Harold MacNevin, chair of Dairy Farm­ers of P.E.I., said re­cently that con­sumer de­mand will ul­ti­mately de­cide whether gro­cers and re­tail­ers will carry U.S. dairy prod­ucts. If con­sumers aren’t buy­ing, then sell­ers will soon stop car­ry­ing the prod­ucts.

“It still boils down to a busi­ness de­ci­sion,” he ex­plained.

The agree­ment, if ap­proved, would open up Cana­dian mar­kets by 3.59 per cent to U.S. dairy ex­ports. With other trade deals that af­fect P.E.I., it would open up the dairy mar­ket to around 15 per cent of non-do­mes­tic pro­duc­ers. Un­der­stand­ably, dairy pro­duc­ers feel be­trayed. To get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of how lo­cal con­sumers may re­act, let’s look at milk.

What are the cri­te­ria we look for when buy­ing milk? Is it fresh­ness and the ex­pi­ra­tion date? Is it brand? Is it price?

It’s prob­a­bly a com­bi­na­tion of all three. De­spite the ex­pi­ra­tion date, com­mon sense says it’s fair to ask how fresh milk might be af­ter it trav­els from across the bor­der com­pared to a farm down the road.

Brand­ing could be in­trigu­ing, es­pe­cially if “Trump Milk” — car­tons de­pict­ing the U.S. pres­i­dent next to a cow draped in the Amer­i­can flag — are on the shelves.

Trump Milk might also play well in lo­cal night­clubs, es­pe­cially as an in­gre­di­ent in white Russian drinks.

Jok­ing aside, let’s not ig­nore the role price could play. The price of milk, like most things, has gone up over the years.

MacNevin says it’s up to re­tail­ers and gro­cers to de­cide how much they sell milk for, which could mean U.S. milk is sold for less than lo­cal prod­ucts.

In terms of brand­ing, MacNevin ad­vises look­ing for the Dairy Farm­ers of Canada logo.

As a con­sumer, would you buy Amer­i­can milk?

The Guardian in P.E.I. re­cently asked this very ques­tion in an on­line poll. Only 219 votes were cast, but it gives a glimpse of what some peo­ple are think­ing.

Most polled (85.39 per cent) said they would not buy U.S. dairy, 8.68 per cent said only if it’s cheaper and 5.93 per cent said yes.

And that’s the point to re­mem­ber: it is a choice and con­sumers have a say as to how this pro­posed trade deal af­fects lo­cal farm­ers.

Peo­ple of­ten brag about buy­ing lo­cal and sup­port­ing their com­mu­nity. But with the pro­posed trade deal, it may never have mat­tered as much as it does now.

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