Nfld. & Labrador

Between the Rock and a hard place: St. Pierre & Miquelon's import and export woes

The small and isolated French-owned islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are having a hard time pushing through bureaucratic red tape that's fouling hopes of their entrepreneurs, writes Adam Walsh.
The small and isolated French-owned islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon are having a hard time pushing through bureaucratic red tape that's fouling hopes of their entrepreneurs 3:01

The small and isolated French-owned islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon are having a hard time pushing through bureaucratic red tape that's fouling hopes of their entrepreneurs. 

A small group of independent farmers is trying to expand business by exporting goods to Canada, namely next door to Newfoundland. Their products, typical French fare: paté, terrine, confit and foie gras.
Marcel-Christophe Dagort is the proprietor of the Marcel Dagort grocery store in St. Pierre. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)

Thierry Gautier is the owner and operator of Ferme de l'Ouest, a farm on the island of Miquelon. He farms lamb, duck, sheep and cows, but he's made his name with his duck products, namely, foie gras. 

Gautier says he hopes to sell his products at the St. John's Farmers' Market. 

"There are a lot of people from Newfoundland that have come here and bring my products back home with them," said Gautier. 

"I also know a lot of people in Newfoundland, and it's true that my products are getting more and more well-known."

Standing in his way — sanitary regulations imposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. 

Thierry Gautier is the owner/ operator of Ferme de l'Ouest. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)
"We're considered by the CFIA ... as a distinct country, just the same as the European Union or Argentina for example," said Xavier Bowring, president of the St. Pierre and Miquelon chamber of commerce.

What that means is the sanitary status of the islands has to be approved by Canada if they want to export products. 

"That's something that's in the process, but it's something that was slow starting, and that is moving also pretty slowly," said Bowring. 

And, as if that didn't make things tough enough for hopeful exporters, there's also the fact that St. Pierre and Miquelon are not part of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. 

"St. Pierre and Miquelon is pretty much stuck in between a rock and a hard place," said Bowring. 

Xavier Bowring is president of the St. Pierre and Miquelon chamber of commerce. (Philippe Grenier/Radio-Canada)
Once the agreement comes into effect, French and European products will actually be cheaper in Canada than in St. Pierre and Miquelon, because the French islands pay import duties on products from Europe, including the motherland France. 

"It's totally crazy," said Marcel-Christophe Dagort, owner of the Marcel Dagort grocery store in St. Pierre, when asked about the export regulations. 

"Most of the ingredients, including the live ducks come from Canada," he said. 

"The corn used to feed the ducks come from Canada, etcetera, etcetera. And we are just ten miles away from Newfoundland, therefore from Canada. It is very difficult to understand."

About the Author

Adam Walsh

CBC News

Adam Walsh is a CBC journalist. He works primarily for the St. John's Morning Show, and contributes to television and digital programming.

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