Four processing plants in Mexico are the first to ship beef from that country to Canada under new export certificates finalized last month, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has confirmed.
While Mexico’s agriculture secretariat (SAGARPA) announced in mid-February that CFIA has recognized Mexico’s federal inspection system as equivalent for beef processing, the certificates were finalized April 3, CFIA said.
Shipments of beef products to Canada from the federally-inspected Mexican plants began later in the month, the agency added.
The four eligible beef plants, now on CFIA’s list of eligible establishments, include Sukarne Agroindustrial in Michoacan state; Ganaderia Integral Vizur, in Sinaloa; Sukarne Produccion at Mexicali in Baja California; and Ganaderia Integral SK in Nuevo Leon.
SAGARPA, in a release last June, noted CFIA staff had also reviewed and approved four other Mexican beef processing plants.
The new certificates follow negotiations between CFIA and SENASICA, Mexico’s food safety and inspection authority, including reviews and audits of the eligible plants by Canadian technicians, SAGARPA said in February.
While CFIA didn’t publicly announce the finalized certificates, beef imports were able to begin after the agency’s area field offices and various industry stakeholder groups were informed, CFIA said.
Canada’s beef sector was “instrumental in getting the ball rolling” for these approvals, according to John Masswohl, director of government and international relations with the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in Ottawa.
The Canadian industry encouraged the Mexican companies to request approvals, then encouraged CFIA to proceed with the inspection missions, he said in an email.
This step by Canada, he said, should be “helpful” for Mexico’s beef processing sector to gain some experience in the Canadian market, and help to reiterate that it’s in both countries’ interest to have open trade.
The association, he said, has “long advocated for fully normalized two-way Canada-Mexico beef trade.”
Mexico remains a major export market for Canadian beef and was Canada’s second-largest beef export customer in 2012 — even though since 2006, Mexico’s beef imports from Canada have been limited to beef from cattle under 30 months of age (UTMs).
The limit stems from Canada’s 2003 discovery of its first domestic case of BSE in an Alberta cow.
However, Mexico recently removed its similar BSE-related limits on imports of U.S. beef, effective April 30 — a move which, in the CCA’s understanding, clears the way for beef processed in the U.S. from Canadian cattle over 30 months old (OTMs) to enter Mexico also, Masswohl said.
According to a notice Monday from the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), U.S. beef and beef products eligible for this expanded access to Mexico must come from cattle slaughtered after May 28 last year.
The expanded market access for U.S.-shipped beef “is another step on the path towards Mexico accepting Canadian (OTMs) directly,” Masswohl said.
Masswohl wouldn’t speculate on when that move might take place, but expected the next step would be for a Mexican inspection mission to come to Canada and observe Canadian plants’ removal policies and practices on specified risk materials (SRMs, the tissues known to harbour the prions that cause BSE in infected cattle) in OTMs.
Coincidentally, Canada’s agriculture minister Gerry Ritz is headed to Mexico next week for a tri-lateral gathering of agriculture officials marking the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Ritz, while in Mexico, is to join his U.S. and Mexican counterparts, Tom Vilsack and Enrique Martinez, in a panel discussion on NAFTA and to hold bilateral meetings with both Martinez and Vilsack on “issues of importance to our agriculture trading relationships.”
Ritz, according to a government release Friday, is also scheduled to lead a round-table discussion and address cattle industry leaders from Mexico, the U.S. and Canada as part of the Mexican Cattle Association’s annual convention. — AGCanada.com Network