French products can be a formidable opponent to local artisans

Local cheesemaker to the European Union: ‘Bring it on’

The Farm House Natural Cheeses isn't worried about a trade agreement that will allow more European cheese into the Canadian market.

A local cheese producer is confident the quality of her cheese can stand up against loosened trade barriers between Canada and the European Union.

Debra Amrein-Boyes, cheesemaker and owner of The Farm House Natural Cheeses in Agassiz, doesn’t understand the panic surrounding last week’s unveiling of a trade agreement that would enable more European cheeses to enter Canada’s artisan cheese market.

An in-principle agreement has been made between the Canadian government and the European Union (EU) that, among other things, would allow for more than double the amount of European cheeses to enter the Canadian market.

Currently 13,000 tonnes are allowed to be imported; with this agreement 29,000 tonnes would be allowed, which works out to approximately one pound of cheese per person.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada, which represents more than 12,500 farms, is vehemently opposed to the agreement arguing it would put small, Canadian cheesemakers out of business.

Amrein-Boyes disagrees.

Her family’s dairy farm is small, processing just 400,000 litres a year, compared to larger farms, which do that in a couple days. And yet, the competition doesn’t scare her.

“As long as we’re producing good, quality cheeses, I don’t see this negatively effecting our business at all,” said Amrein-Boyes.

“If Canadian cheesemakers are not able to produce local, fine cheese then we will certainly suffer, but I believe consumers are already choosing locally made products for their quality.

“The market for quality local cheeses is only increasing, which, in my opinion, will in any case outweigh the sales in imported cheese.”

Amrein-Boyes feels the alarm bells have been sounded too loud and too soon. The trade agreement doesn’t go into effect for another two years.

“I just don’t understand the panic,” she said. “If the only reason we have a market in Canada is because there’s no competition, that doesn’t cut it. We have to have quality cheeses.”

kbartel@theprogress.com

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