European cheese imports serve up tough choice for Champagne

More European cheese is set to ship to Canada tariff free this summer, as a hotly anticipated part of the EU trade deal rolls in.

Nearly 18,000 tonnes may sound like a lot. It’s actually a rare, thin slice of Canada’s tightly controlled cheese market.

The knives are out among those eager to carve it up for themselves.

So Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne has a tough call to make: who gets to import it and reap the rewards?

Proponents of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) stoked expectations among cheese lovers eager for high quality, lower-priced options.

The trade department sought advice on how to allocate the new tariff rate quota (TRQ) last year, but has kept mum about what it heard and what it intends to do.

Sylvain Charlebois, a researcher in food distribution and dean of Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, said consultations were “highly politicized.”

But if new quota isn’t divvied up correctly, he said, “you actually can jeopardize the quality of the products that we already have.”

Retailers argue they should import all the new cheese because that’s what’s most efficient.

Not so fast, Canada’s dairy sector says: we’re the ones whose products are threatened, so we should get a cut to offset that risk.

Quebec Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard has weighed in, asking Champagne, who represents a rural Quebec riding, to support the domestic industry by allocating import quota to processors.

“The government needs to make a decision, and make an announcement quickly in order to prepare,” Jacques Lefebvre said. read more at


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