Richmond chef Ken Iaci is no economist but he’s counting down the days for the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement between the European Union and Canada to be ratified. That’s because CETA, which was signed last week, will open up the Canadian cheese market to European fine cheeses – something the Italian caterer does know a lot about.
Iaci is the owner of The Market at Papi’s, which sells imported food items, including European cheeses. Currently Canada only allows 13,000 tonnes of EU cheese to be imported into the country – a protectionist measure for Canadian dairy farmers. When CETA is expected to be ratified by the EU in 2015, the quota will rise to about 29,000 tonnes, giving vendors like Iaci more sales opportunities.
“We do a lot of cheese platters,” Iaci said.
Iaci says the current quotas affect variety and proper distribution of the imports.
“I think it will give us the ability to bring in the cheeses we want, a greater variety and when we want them,” said Iaci from the deli shop in Steveston.
“The problem is when you get towards Christmas time, the quotas are already used up so it’s hard to get cheeses, and that’s the biggest time for sales,” he said.
On one day, Iaci said he ended up with over $2,000 worth of cheese delivered to the shop because some of the quota portions were released at one time.
The busy husband and father of three has been cooking since the 1970s and runs popular home cooking classes, a catering business and the shop on top of being a food consultant. He’s also an original chef and owner of the popular Joe Fortes seafood restaurant in Vancouver.
He waxes poetically about cheese when asked about its European variants, which he says has unique flavours thanks to centuries of artisan creations.
“You can’t beat a great brie,” he says.
Another imported cheese vendor next door to The Market, Chad Heringer of Heringers Olde Fashioned Quality Meats, concurs with Iaci on the impact of CETA.
“I have a feeling we will have more choice and times when we aren’t out of cheeses,” said Heringer.
He also believes the cheese prices could fall and because of improved distribution the ripeness will be more optimal.
Heringer added that despite the complaints from Canadian dairy farmers CETA could open up European markets to Canadian cheese.
“Some of the cheeses out of Quebec are phenomenal. …There’s no reason they don’t put [Canadian cheese] on a container back to Europe,” he said.