Provincial Abattoirs May Get Freer Trade

“(The intent is) an outcome-based process where the standard is set by the quality of product.”

– ALLAN PRESTON, MAFRI

Along-standing promise to loosen up interprovincial trade may finally come true for provincially licensed livestock slaughter plants.

Canada’s agriculture ministers have approved pilot projects to see how provincial plants can sell meat to other provinces instead of just their local markets.

Ministers agreed “to create a road map that would investigate how producers can share their high-quality T-bones or pork chops with their neighbours in the next province,” federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in wrapping up the agriculture ministers’ annual meeting in Saskatoon last week.

Under the Meat Inspection Act, provincially certified plants may sell only within their own borders, not to other provinces. Only federally licensed plants may do that.

For example, a provincial plant in western Manitoba cannot sell meat into Saskatchewan, despite a ready market next door.

This occasionally produces criticism that Canada shouldn’t complain about international trade barriers when it limits the flow of goods between its own provinces.

Provinces have long talked about easing interprovincial trade restrictions in meat but have made little progress.

“The comment has been made by people that it’s easier to trade with China than it is to trade with Ontario,” said Dr. Allan Preston, a Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives assistant deputy minister.

“If you’re living in Rainy River, Ont. and the closest plant to you is somewhere down around Guelph, it makes a whole bunch more sense to bring product to your market from a plant in southeastern Manitoba.”

Preston said pilot projects will seek ways for provincial abattoirs to meet requirements of the federal act to allow interprovincial sales.

If a provincial plant on an HACCP program could achieve the same results as a federal plant, it could be raised to a higher level, he said.

This could avoid having to meet federal requirements that have nothing to do with food safety, such as the number of washrooms or whether the parking lot is paved.

“The intent where we’re heading with this is to have more of an outcome-based process where the standard is set by the quality of product coming out the door,” said Preston.

Provincial plants would still not be allowed to export product to other countries. That would require meeting even higher international standards.

Preston said Ottawa hopes pilot projects will have results to show by this time next year when the agriculture ministers meet again.

He said three or four of Manitoba’s two dozen small-and medium-size provincial abattoirs have expressed interest.

Those might be ones located near markets in other provinces, which could make the expense of upgrading facilities to higher standards worthwhile. [email protected]

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