What the mail and bread have in common

Monopolies in any sense pose a warning to everyone to be prepared

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the primary think-tank for market economies around the world, and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations have been two of the most globally authoritative structures keeping an eye on how things are developing in their areas of specialty and prices of agricultural products happens to be one area that falls under the authority of both organizations.

Now these organizations have just issued a joint warning that farmers had better take note of. They released a lengthy report giving a broad outlook of how the agricultural sector will be doing over the next ten years and from what they have written, it is fair to conclude that the next decade will be one of uncertainty, possibly slower growth and probably more money going to agricultural conglomerates rather than to farmers, in other words a continuing trend of monopolization of both the production and trade in the sector.

Just as these lines were being written on Monday night, July 4, Canada Post officially gave the notice of lockout to the union representing the postal workers employed by the Crown corporation, that is as of July 8, all postal services throughout the country will be frozen until further notice.

As we all know Canada Post is a monopoly in the country, meaning there is not any other company, organization or business that provides the service delivered by Canada Post.

Since the time of the very early settlers, postal services have been a key feature of the life and an integral part of growth and development in Canada and while the growth of digital technology and Internet has reduced its functionality, the service remains vitally important for many communities throughout the country, particularly in smaller ones.

There is no word as yet how the federal government will react to the lockout declared by Canada Post. It is clearly within the mandate of the government to intervene and order the company to end the lockout even if temporarily to ensure the continuity of the services.

Postal services are considered public service, for the provision of which profit should never be a motive.

Just two weeks ago, a US federal court ruled that the contemporary, digitalized form of one branch of postal service, electronic communication through Internet, was to be considered a utility, defined by Merriam- Webster online dictionary as a service (such as a supply of electricity or water) that is provided to the public.

So here is the question: Does a crown corporation, by definition owned by the state, have the prerogative of refusing to provide a public service which is funded by taxpayers’ money?

If Canada Post had been in a position to be threatened by other companies providing the same service at a lower price or at a level of higher efficiency with less cost, it would be fair to regard the stance of even a crown corporation justifiable in that it would need to step up its competitive strength.

But in the current state of affairs, Canada Post is both a monopoly in providing a vital public service to the people of the country and a complainant of the conditions under which it operates whereby there is no other comparable operation.

So how is Canada Post’s lockout decision linked to the OECD and FAO report on the agriculture? The latter gives a warning about the dangers of the situation represented by the former: monopolization.

Warnings are actually everywhere: The price of agricultural land is on the rise, the average age of farmers is getting dangerously high, young people are moving to cities and turning their back to farming and agriculture, those who don’t can’t afford to own land; multinational companies are gradually taking control of both production and trade of basic food staples and acquiring the power to dictate prices in addition to taking small farmers hostage by using the power to genetically modify seeds and claim royalties for their use.

Letters, information, news, gifts and parcels coming from loved ones are all great to have. However, one can survive without them in the end, but not without food.