Grocery chains should be forced to buy local
February 19, 2009 By The Chronicle Herald
Feb. 19, 2009, Halifax – A Nova Scotia Liberal believes it's time to look at a
law that would force Nova Scotia meats, fruits and vegetables onto grocery store shelves.
Leo Glavine, who represents rural Kings West riding in the legislature, is frustrated by what he sees as not enough commitment from big grocers to stock local products.
“NAFTA be darned,'' he said during the legislature's resources committee meeting Tuesday.
“If we bring in legislation to move our buy local (campaign) and future of our farmers forward, that has to be done.''
After the meeting, Glavine acknowledged that the big grocery chains have been buying from some bigger farmers in the province, but the medium-sized and smaller operations need access to Sobeys and Atlantic Superstore too.
“If we're really going to advance the buy local movement, farmers tell me that they've got to be able to get their product into the major chains of the province,'' Glavine said.
New Democrat John MacDonell was skeptical of Glavine's call for legislation because it could violate interprovincial trade agreements. Tory Jamie Muir said Glavine should be careful of protectionist language, pointing to protectionist concerns with the U.S. economic stimulus package.
David Primorac, senior public relations director for Loblaw Companies Ltd, which operates Atlantic Superstore, said he couldn't comment on Glavine's motion for legislation.
Primorac said a team of employees nationwide makes buying decisions on local produce, for example, and that team would include someone in Nova Scotia looking at food grown here.
“You have to keep in mind that we are a national company, so we have to be able to provide product all across the country, from various parts of the country,'' he said from Loblaw's head office in Brampton, Ont.
A Sobeys spokesperson wasn't available for comment.
The committee approved an NDP motion to call someone from the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors to appear and answer questions about stocking local products.
Staff from the provincial Agriculture Department were at the committee to talk about Select Nova Scotia, a marketing campaign aimed at raising awareness of Nova Scotia products.
They said the large retailers are willing to stock local products, but people usually just notice them when the items are in season.
In the case of beef, Linda MacDonald, the department's executive director of industry development and business services, said farmers are now working on a strategy to ensure they're producing what retailers need.
Another issue is simply producing enough beef to meet the demand.
“We can't really find a marketing solution to what's essentially a production problem,'' she told the committee.
Scott Hosking, the department's marketing director, said Select Nova Scotia has a $350,000 budget for promotions.
Work this year will include the second provincewide picnic featuring Nova Scotia food, promotions with restaurants, and calendars featuring recipes with local products.
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