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To withstand the increased competition

Canada’s proposed free trade deal with the European Union would bring in as much cheese in a year as 700 small artisanal dairies like hers could produce in the same amount of time.

“That’s a lot of small dairies that will be impacted,” says Klahsen, who owns Montforte Dairy in Stratford, Ont.

The odds are stacked against local producers, she says, noting that European cheese makers have centuries of experience along with hefty government subsidies behind them.

Klahsen is banking on her business model — mainly direct sales to consumers through farmers’ markets and high-end commercial customers, such as the Four Seasons Hotel — to carry her through.

“I hope I’m alright,” she said in an interview Thursday.

A Toronto retailer says increased imports could be good for consumers, leading to lower prices and more choice. Canadian producers are strong enough to withstand the increased competition, Afrim Pristine, owner of Cheese Boutique, in Toronto, added.

A third of the 500 cheeses he carries are Canadian made. “I’ve seen the evolution of the cheese industry in Canada. I’m blown away by Canadian product. I don’t see this as a threat,” Pristine said.

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