Reforming dairy supply management in Canada: the Australian example

Even with a temporary reprieve from the latest WTO talks in Hong Kong in December 2005, the supply management system in Canada’s dairy industry will have to be reformed in the longer term. The system clearly benefits certain milk producers, but on the other hand it holds Canadian consumers hostage and stifles entire industries that have to pay more for their milk. It erects an obstacle to competition throughout the Canadian dairy industry, penalizing the most dynamic producers by means of extravagantly expensive quotas. When it comes to reforming the dairy supply management system in Canada, a number of concerns have been raised to which the Australian experience provides answers.

Dairy production: the costs of supply management in Canada

International talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in July 2004 drew attention to the “supply management” model in agriculture. This model was first applied in Australia in the 1920s to protect farmers’ incomes against economic swings and lower prices for their products as well as to increase their power in relation to buyers. Supply management, which is held out today as an indispensable element of Canadian agricultural policy, is in reality a needlessly costly system, particularly where dairy production is concerned.

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