Livestock groups have welcomed a federal offer to create a specialized unit within Agriculture Canada to help overcome overseas barriers to Canadian farm and food products.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has repeatedly mentioned the Agriculture Market Access Secretariat ever since it was first announced on Jan. 9 but Agriculture Canada says it’s far from being activated.
“Consultations with industry, the provinces and other government departments need to take place,” a spokesman said April 8. “Time will be needed to put its organization components in place and its people.”
In a recent appearance before the Commons trade committee, Ted Haney of the Canadian Export Beef Federation said there is widespread support in the industry for the formation of the access secretariat.
“We are cautiously optimistic (the secretariat) will result in an efficient and effective centre of excellence in export trade management,” he said. “The federation is cautiously optimistic that utilizing the government’s new approach of pursuing incremental access in key export markets such as South Korea, Mainland China and Japan, would also be a tremendous benefit.”
Ridding the world of technical trade barriers would enable Canada to seize significant trade opportunities and could boost the value of livestock processed in Canada by $85 a head.
Jurgen Preugschas, chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, said “creation of the Market Access Secretariat for livestock producers is a positive step, but it is necessary for the government to properly fund the secretariat, aggressively explore trade opportunities and assist our sector in developing measures to increase exports to other markets.”
The idea for the secretariat originated with the beef and pork Value Chain Roundtables. “Canadian producers want to make their living in the marketplace and this government is working with them to tap new opportunities on the world stage,” Ritz said in the January announcement.
He said the secretariat will “better co-ordinate government initiatives with producers and industry to aggressively and strategically go after new markets and keep pace with international competitors. The secretariat will include a range of trade experts to promote Canadian agricultural exports around the world.”
Meanwhile Ritz announced April 8 a new Trade and Market Development Program to help farmers and exporters sell more products to more international customers.
“You have to create opportunities in international markets to have a competitive farm gate here in Canada,” he said. “By supporting Canadian exporters, we are increasing opportunities for everyone all along the value chain, from farm gate to fork.”
The Canadian Federation of Agr i cul ture wel comed the new program because it will help diversify export markets. President Laurent Pellerin said it will supplant the Canadian Agriculture and Food International. “Many farmers have used the CAFI Program and have benefited from it over the years. This program is welcomed by our exporter members such as the grain, livestock, and horticulture sectors.”
He said the new program will include five initiatives – Canada Brand, AgriMarketing Program, Value Chain Roundtables (VCRTs), Market Information and Export Capacity Building, and Enabling Research for Competitive Agriculture. A key part of the program will be the AgriMarketing component, which aims to help exporters by ensuring the Canada Brand maple leaf is on promotional materials and raising the profile of Canadian goods.
The program will be funded over Growing Forward, the new federal-provincial farm support program that was to come into effect April 1 but still lacks full provincial sign-on.