Quebec to lift yellow margarine ban: report

Quebec’s government plans to end its 20-year-old regulation that prohibits margarine sold in the province from having a yellow colour, Quebec media reported Tuesday.

Quebec farm newspaper La Terre de chez nous and a Montreal report in Toronto’s Globe and Mail both said the move is the result of pressure from other provinces to harmonize cross-border trade in agri-food products, as per the provinces’ Agreement on Internal Trade.

La Terre said on its web site Tuesday that the decision was made June 25 at a provincial cabinet meeting, and that the province’s influential dairy farmer group, la Federation des producteurs de lait du Quebec, would not contest it.

The farm paper quoted FPLQ president Marcel Groleau as saying butter sold in the province has a market share secure enough to hold against substitute spreads such as margarine.

Under a regulation in place since 1987, margarine is currently sold in the province in a colour more closely resembling lard or shortening. La Terre quoted Groleau as saying there are now more spreads on the market and the butter that the dairy farmer lobby sought to protect is now on an equally competitive footing with vegetable oil-based products.

However, the Globe said, margarine’s market share in Quebec sits at 58 per cent, about 12 per cent lower than in the rest of Canada.

The Globe quoted Frederic Lagace, a spokesman for provincial Ag Minister Laurent Lessard, as saying the province will still demand higher milk quotients in dairy products such as cheese and yogurt sold across Canada, during the federal/provincial ag ministers’ meeting this week in Quebec City.

The Globe also quoted Sean McPhee, president of the Vegetable Oil Industry of Canada, as saying the province’s move on margarine will be “good for Quebec consumers, who will be able to enjoy margarine that’s the same colour as it is in the rest of the world.”

In a separate release Wednesday, the FPLQ and the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) warned that any other changes to the interprovincial trade accord will be unacceptable if such changes limit efforts by farmers collectively to provide their farm products with a distinctive character, as per Quebec consumers’ wishes.

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