Quebec’s dairy farmers say Premier Philippe Couillard is underestimating the threat posed to the province’s cheese industry by the influx of cheaper cheeses from Europe under a possible free-trade deal between Canada and the European Union.

Yesterday after a meeting with ambassadors, Couillard said that he didn’t want this “one issue” to stand in the way Canada’s inking the deal with the EU.

Couillard said Quebec’s cheese production industry is strong and free-trade will give them access to the European market.

However, the president of Quebec’s dairy producers federation worries that the province’s cheesemakers will have a hard time competing against European cheeses that are both cheaper and produced in far greater quantities.

Europe produces 17 times more cheese than Quebec, Bruno Letendre says.

In order to compete, Letendre says Quebec’s cheese producers need provincial funding to help them expand their production and increase the reach of their products through advertising.

Letendre says Couillard should be negotiating compensation for the province's cheese industry rather than minimizing the issue.