Canadian cherry growers are expecting one of their best crops ever but stand to lose money this year as cherries from Washington state flood the Canadian market, the federal New Democrats’ agriculture critic warns.
“Cherries from the U.S. are being sold in Canada at prices our farmers cannot compete against,” Alex Atamanenko said in a release Tuesday. “This is just plain wrong and completely unfair.”
Atamanenko laid the blame on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which he said put an end to the in-season border tariffs and ship dates that previously protected domestic fruit and vegetable growers at harvest time.
Before NAFTA took effect, “our farmers weren’t being undercut at a critical time and were able to make a living while supplying us with good quality local food,” he said.
“That is no longer the case and because we insist on following the rules to the letter our farmers continue to be hurt.”
Atamanenko, an MP from the Castlegar area of southern B.C., said he has written to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, asking him to move on the matter “even if it means risking trade action.”
“Trade deal or no trade deal, the U.S. wouldn’t hesitate to slap a tariff on our produce if it meant protecting their producers,” the NDP MP said. “It’s time for us to do the same.”
He also urged consumers to make it known to supermarkets that they plan to buy only Canadian cherries.
As well, he said, “we need to pressure our federal government to protect our food sovereignty and create conditions for farmers to earn a living.”