“Free Your Milk” Campaign Launched

Over half of Canadians think dairy products are too expensive, according to a recent survey by a restaurant and food services association.

The current system is making Canadian milk and cheese less attractive and less affordable for everyone, said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA).

The survey conducted for the 30,000-member association found that 58 per cent of Canadians would support a reduction in the price of milk, cheese and other dairy products.

The only surprise is that the number wasn t higher, retorted Therese Beaulieu, a spokesperson for Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC).

If somebody asks me if I want to pay less for gas, I ll say yes. Would I be happy if my taxes were lower? Yeah, said Beaulieu.

Wide-ranging campaign

The survey is part of a more wide-ranging campaign, one with a heavy social media component. The CRFA has created a website, freeyour milk.ca, and says it will use Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness among consumers of the complicated and difficult supply management system, and hopefully gain some clout ahead of the upcoming annual dairy price peg in mid-November. It cites Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development numbers that show prices in Canada are roughly double the world average, and 63 per cent higher than those paid by Americans.

However, the association says it is not targeting the farmer.

CRFA is interested in working with federal and provincial governments and the dairy industry to see a fair and transparent system that benefits everyone, said Whyte.

Quoting StatsCan figures that show Canadians consume 18 per cent less milk today compared to two decades ago, Whyte said changes to the system could help increase overall consumption of dairy products.

In light of the federal Conservatives push to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, is the DFC worried an influential lobby group is taking aim at supply management? No, said Beaulieu, noting that whenever criticism of the quota system arises, the Tories are quick to reassure dairy farmers that they will preserve supply management.

Mature market

She added that dairy products are a mature market, and consumption of fluid milk has fallen on both sides of the border due to the demographics of an aging population. On the other hand, consumption of cheese, cream and yogurt is rising.

Criticism from the CRFA about dairy prices is nothing new, said Beaulieu.

Well, guess what? In the late 1990s and 2000, it was actually cheaper in Canada than in the U.S. At that time, the CFRA was still attacking the price of milk, she said.

However, she said DFC will be monitoring the attempt at generating a consumer-driven campaign, as well as upcoming lobbying efforts.

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