Trucker fined for trying to smuggle cheese into Canada (with video)

A trucker must pay a fine of C$30,000 for attempting to smuggle nearly 8,800 pounds of cheese from the U.S. into Canada.

Haissam Azaar was fined the equivalent of $22,000 on May 9 after pleading guilty to the thwarted attempt to bring the eight skids of undeclared cheese through the Landsdowne, Ontario crossing, near northern New York. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers found the cheese during a secondary inspection and subsequently arrested Azaar.

The CBSA announced the case on May 27, highlighting Canada’s long-standing issue with lower-price cheese being smuggled into the country.

“Seizures like this serve as a reminder of the vital role CBSA officers play in preventing risks to Canada’s food safety as well as contributing to Canada’s economic security,” said Darren Frank, director of the CBSA’s St. Lawrence district.

Cheese prices can be dramatically higher in Canada than the U.S. The tightly regulated dairy market operates under a supply management system, which keeps prices inflated by limiting production and imposing limits on imports. Cheese above annual quotas is subject to 270 percent tariffs.

Prosecutions for cheese-smuggling are relatively rare, though not unheard of. A Canadian police officer in Niagara Falls received a four-month jail sentence for his role in a large-scale smuggling ring that brought low-cost cheese from the U.S. across the border to be resold locally   – especially at pizzerias.

The U.S. has long bemoaned the supply management system, which also covers poultry, saying it unfairly denies its producers access to the Canadian market. NAFTA’s successor, United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, foresees allowing more imports of U.S. and Mexican dairy products into Canada.

Canada’s powerful dairy industry has long resisted efforts to open up the market, arguing that domestic producers could be undercut by foreign competition, particularly the U.S.

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.

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