Food Industry -- Profits

Robertson, David
Publisher:  OPRIG, Canada
Year Published:  1977  
Pages:  21pp  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX294

A talk given by David Robertson on the relationship between corporate interest and the food industry.

Abstract:  This talk was originally given to a group of people in Ottawa who were interested in food industry profits and the social processes by which they are generated. The speaker, David Robertson, challenged the notion of the "competitive marketplace" by showing how, over the course of the past twenty years, "some of the largest corporations in North America have managed to muscle their way to our dinner tables, exerting their economic power, over farmers, consumers, workers, tax-payers and even governments."
Fully one half of the hundred largest companies in Canada derive a portion of their profits from involvement in some aspect of the food economy. Agri-business oligopoly conditions exist within the Canadian food economy. Under these conditions a relatively few corporations like Dominion, Weston, Canadian Safeway and Steinbergs control the majority of the sales, assets and revenues of the food sector while remaining nicely hidden behind the endless proliferation of chain store names, the diversity of seemingly competitive products on the supermarket shelves and the wide variety of apparently unconnected companies that supply them.
Dominion Stores, the largest supermarket chain in Canada, is, for example, 25% controlled by Argus Corporation, the largest Canadian-owned manufacturing firm. At the same time, Dominion Stores is 6% controlled by Canada Packers which is its major supplier of meat; Argus Corporation also owns Massey-Ferguson which supplies agricultural equipment and machinery to farmers who raise cattle on a contract basis for Canada Packers. Finally, Argus Corporation has 19 directors on Canada's four major banks from which farmers must borrow money to finance their land and capital equipment. As a result, farmers are earning poverty level incomes and farmland is going out of production. Mr. Robertson's
talk poses the vital question; is food going to be produced for corporate needs (i.e. profit) or will food be produced to satisfy human needs?

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