Despite the pandemic, dairy market continued to grow this past year

This file photo shows cows in a dairy farm, Tuesday, September 25, 2018 in Saint-Henri-de-Taillon, Que. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jacques Boissinot)

Though sales of milk products for hotels and restaurants declined in the past year, retail sales increased for butter, cream, cheese, milk and yogurt.

“The consumer has helped a lot. There has been a strong demand for local products and that has been very positive, '' said Quebec Milk Producers president Daniel Gobeil in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The pace of sales growth did slow this year compared to the last five years though, according to Quebec Milk Producers.

Figures released by producers on Wednesday show Canadian demand growth for dairy products was up only 0.56 per cent for the 12 months ending in September 2020, while it had been 3.76 per cent for the previous period.

The growth in retail sales couldn’t full offset offset restaurants and hotels closing in the spring, according to the Quebec Milk Producers, but the partial reopening of the sector made it possible to “gradually restore sales.”

“In this very volatile context, producers have had to adapt quickly to unstable and chaotic market needs. The speed with which we have succeeded in reducing the effects of the crisis demonstrates the agility of our supply management model,” said Gobeil.

WAITING ON FEDERAL AID

Meanwhile, dairy farmers say they’re still awaiting details of the promised federal aid to deal with losses from the North American trade pact, which came into force on July 1.

Producers have been asking the government for months to establish a schedule for compensation.

“Our patience has limits,” said Gobeil, who hopes details on compensation will be in the federal government's next economic update.

Quebec dairy producers say they’ll eventually face a market loss of 8.4 per cent due to concessions granted in three trade agreements signed by the federal government: the Global and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

A month ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was determined to honour past promises to compensate dairy farmers who suffered losses due to trade deals and that his government was working with dairy farmers to do just that.

Ottawa pledged $ 1.75 billion over eight years in compensation and growers say they received a third of that as of yet.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 18, 2020.

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