Sunday March 20, 2016

How important is it for Canada to produce its own food?

Tomatoes are harvested in Leamington, Ont. in this file photo. Leamington farmers will be supplying tomatoes for French's

Tomatoes are harvested in Leamington, Ont. in this file photo. Leamington farmers will be supplying tomatoes for French's (CBC)

Listen to Full Episode 1:53:00

When Loblaws pulled French's ketchup off the shelves they had no idea of the consequences. It unleashed a dormant nationalism towards food products and support of local economies. How important is it for Canada to produce its own food?

Susan McReynolds

Cross Country Checkup guest host Susan McReynolds shows off her Canada mittens. (CBC)

The ketchup kerfuffle made headlines this past week when supermarket giant, Loblaws announced it would remove French's ketchup from its stores' shelves. The brand had not been selling well, and what sales they had, might have been competing with its own house brand.  

But the response was swift! Social media lit up with accusations that the move was a slap in the face to the farmers in southwestern Ontario who grow the tomatoes that go into French's, and to the processors who make them into the paste.

Now there is a bit of history behind this. The big brand that dominates the global ketchup market is Heinz. Since 1909 Heinz made ketchup in Leamington, Ont...but in 2014 it closed two of its factories and pulled out, leaving growers and processors without jobs and scrambling for a solution. French's rode to the rescue and started using Ontario tomatoes in its new ketchup line. So, when Loblaws gave French's the bum's rush, the locals were not happy.

It might be a simple condiment but it raises big questions that go well beyond what you put on your hot dogs, burgers and fries. People are understandably upset when jobs are lost whether they be in growing or processing food.  

Some say in a global food market Canadians might lose the capacity to provide certain essential products for themselves. Others say Canada thrives on exporting food.  It's one of a select few countries that exports more food than we import. Any move to restrict free trade in food would only harm Canada.

This week we are Cross Country Ketchup and our question is: How important is it that Canada produce its own food?

GUESTS

Taras Natyshak
Ontario NDP MPP for Essex, in the same region as Leamington
Twitter: @TarasNatyshak 

Mike Moffatt
Assistant Professor at Ivey Business school, Western University
Twitter: @MikePMoffatt

Diana Bronson
Executive Director of Food Secure Canada, a non-profit focused on food security issues in Canada.
Twitter: @DianaBronsonFSC

Sylvain Charlebois
Professor in Food distribution and Policy at the University of Guelph's Food Institute.
Twitter: @scharleb