Supply Management: Cementing Canadian Food Security

By ensuring farmers produce only enough to meet the needs of Canadians, supply management helps the sector reduce waste and improve sustainability, prevent wild fluctuations in the farm-gate price of milk and enhances Canada’s food sovereignty and security.

Dairy farmer and family in field

Dairy farmers believe that all individuals and families should have food security – reliable access to affordable, nutritious food, so that they can pursue a healthy, active lifestyle. In Canada, 12% of households are food insecure and struggle to get adequate nutrition.¹

Our farmers safely and sustainably produce high-quality milk right within our own borders, which is then transformed by local processors into thousands of dairy products that Canadian consumers have come to know and love.

In Canada there are more than 10,000 dairy farms and 500 dairy processors.

Feeding the Nation:  Food Security and the Supply Management System

Rather than looking outward for our food, a strong Canadian dairy sector means we can be less dependent on foreign countries to meet Canada’s food requirements. 

One of the ways Canadian dairy farmers ensure a consistent supply of milk at stable prices is through an agricultural framework called supply management. The primary objective of that system is to produce enough milk to meet domestic demand.

Supply Management Pillars

Under supply management, farmers work collaboratively with milk marketing boards, processors and the Canadian Dairy Commission to ensure enough milk production to meet domestic demand. Unfortunately, supply management has been weakened by recent trade deals, which provide greater access to foreign countries to the Canadian dairy market.

benefits of supply management

Why does this matter?

  • Overreliance on dairy imports puts greater ownership over our food supply in the hands of foreign suppliers and governments. That means we are more vulnerable to global issues beyond our control, like economic boom-and-bust, natural disasters, and even conflicts between governments.
  • Our dairy sector generates ample economic activity - especially in rural communities, which means more jobs, more investment, and more taxation revenues stay right here in Canada.
  • Imported dairy products may not follow the same stringent production standards as food produced in Canada – this is especially true when it comes to dairy. For instance, all Canadian milk is produced without artificial growth hormones; there are no such guarantees with the milk produced in other countries. Canadian dairy farmers also follow rigorous high quality and safety standards and are global leaders in sustainability. 
  • Domestically produced dairy products travel a shorter distance from farm-to-table, which means a lower transportation footprint and lower transportation costs.
Our dairy sector generates economic activity all across Canada

Supply Management in Action: Dairy and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 crisis is a stark reminder of the responsibility of countries to ensure their populations have reliable access to safe, nutritious foods. It also showed us the weakness of a model that relies disproportionately on our traditional trading partners for supplies. 

When the pandemic first struck in Canada, our sector was faced with sudden, massive fluctuations in demand for milk and dairy products.

Dairy farmers and processors had to adjust quickly to the spike in demand created by the hoarding of dairy products, followed by declines in demand as restaurants and other foodservice-reliant businesses were forced to close.

Thanks to the coordination and collaboration inherent under supply management, the dairy sector was able to quickly adjust to an unpredictable landscape in a relatively short period of time. As the country reopens, more fluctuations may occur. The dairy industry will continue to meet changing demands as efficiently as possible.


Giving Back To The Community

Dairy farmers and processors donate millions worth of products to Canadian food banks every year - during the COVID-19 pandemic, dairy farmers and processors have donated more than $10 million worth of dairy products to food banks across the country.


(1) Centre for Studies in Food Security, Ryerson University, October 2020