A look at international opportunities for beef

Shipping beef to the EU requires adherence to strict protocols, 
but the premium may make it worthwhile

Tod Wallace

Breakout sessions and informal discussion at the 36th annual general meeting of Manitoba Beef Producers in Brandon earlier this month focused on the possibilities of capitalizing on the European Union and Asian markets.

“The markets are changing and as producers we need to adapt. Whether you want to go to the EU, China, or you’re sourcing out different markets with different plants, you need to do your homework,” said Tod Wallace, a farm production extension specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU has sparked quite a bit of interest.

“The EU market has been in the limelight for the past few months and I think it does support some tremendous opportunity for us,” Wallace said.

However, while the CETA final text was signed last September, the agreement still needs to be reviewed by lawyers and ratified by the European Parliament as well as the 28 member states. Wallace warns that these markets may not become a reality until 2017.

It’s estimated that when implemented, CETA will provide Canada with duty-free access for 35,000 tonnes of fresh and 15,000 tonnes of frozen beef for a value of about $600 million by 2022.

“The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is estimating that this will require adding 500,000 head of cattle from Canada, but they will have to be raised according to European standards — no hormone implants or beta-agonists (ionophores such as rumensin),” Wallace said.

Animals must also be slaughtered and processed in a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) federally registered establishment to be eligible for export to the EU.

“CFIA will inspect your farm, go through the protocol and will give you a certificate but it is only good for one year. The first year will be most difficult but after that it should be a matter of renewing paperwork,” Wallace said. “Cattle for the EU also need to be managed separately from your conventional or domestic-raised cattle.”

The CCA website offers interested producers a detailed summary of the EU protocol requirements.

“To be EU certified as a producer it is going to cost on average 20 to 25 per cent more to raise that animal from calf to slaughter. But then, there is said to be a 20 per cent higher premium. At the end of the day profitability is key so watch the bottom line and try to source the premium wherever you can get it,” Wallace said.

Asian opportunities

There is also more interest in selling beef to the Far East following the federal government’s announcement last November of creating four new Canadian trade offices in China.

“The Chinese market is poised for vigorous growth and will only become more important for Canadian beef and veal exporters going forward. With the Chinese market you’ve got a huge population base and rising per capita beef consumption,” Wallace said.

Canadian beef exports to China have grown rapidly since 2012. Exports to mainland China from January to September 2014 are up 60 per cent in volume to 5,850 tonnes, just under the annual volume for 2013 of 6,000 tonnes.

“The protocol for Asian markets is much more lenient than the EU. There are currently no official protocols and no ban on hormones or antibiotics,” Wallace said.

Currently stipulations for the Chinese markets include animals under 30 months of age and restricted use of ractopamine.

About the author


Jennifer Paige

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.



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