Toronto, Jun 2 (EFE).- Canada is the North Korea of dairy products with a tight border through which foreign dairy products only pass in dribs and drabs but where, despite everything, Spanish cheeses are the rage.
In 2012, Canadian authorities broke up a profitable smuggling network by arresting three people who were illegally bringing products from the United States to Canada. Their crime? Smuggling mozzarella cheese to sell in Canadian restaurants.
The profits from the illegal dairy-products trafficking were so high that mozzarella was being called “white gold.”
Canada imposes customs duties of up to 300 percent on cheese imports, and not only on cheeses, but also on other dairy products like butter and yogurt.
Little by little, however, the protectionist wall established by Ottawa to guard its dairy sector is breaking down and the expected late-2016 entry into force of the free trade treaty between Canada and the European Union, known as CETA, will open up a wide gap in that wall.
That is why Spain is promoting its cheeses and trying to take advantage of the growing demand for them in Canada, to get a jump on the opening of the market when CETA goes into effect.
“Cheeses are growing at this time at significant rates. In 2014, they grew by about 50 percent and in the first months of the year, they have grown 30 percent,” Spain’s commercial delegate in Toronto, Maria Gorriti, told Efe at a promotional event for Spanish cheeses held on Monday.
Martin Kouprie, the chef and co-owner of Pangaea, one of Toronto’s most renowned restaurants, says there’s no mistake.
“Cheeses from Spain are the fashion. I’ve spoken with several importers and, as soon as they arrive, they’re sold very quickly. Toronto is a big buyer of Spanish cheese. But there are also cities like Calgary, which right now seems to be a great demand center. What’s happening is that they’re the fashion,” he said.
Before some 50 gastronomic reporters, chefs from other Toronto restaurants and representatives of retail chains, Kouprie demonstrated in the kitchen what can be done with Spanish cheeses in dishes well-known to Canadians like risotto.
“Cheese from Spain excels for a series of reasons. In the first place, because of the use of sheep’s milk, a richer milk, that produces almost a translucent kind of cheese, which is unique and which you don’t find in many other cultures or countries. The customers always think highly of it,” he said.
Another person who is convinced of the qualities of Spanish cheese is Gurth Pretty, a representative for Canada’s biggest supermarket chain, Loblaw, which sells Spanish cheese in several of its high-end stores in Toronto and Ottawa.
“The challenge is that many Canadian consumers aren’t familiar with sheep milk cheese. We have to be constantly educating them to show them the benefits and the deliciousness of sheep and goat cheeses,” said Pretty, known as Canada’s “cheese guru.”