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Beef Trade With Colombia Restored

Colombia will reopen its doors to Canadian beef and livestock, raising hopes for a breakthrough in Canada’s beef trade with Latin America.

Colombia will accept 5,250 tonnes of Canadian beef annually duty free, yielding sales of nearly $6 million a year.

Another expected $1 million worth of livestock and genetics sales will make the total value of exports to Colombia $7 million.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the deal May 22 following a government-industry trade mission to Colombia and Peru.

Colombia slapped an 80 per cent tariff on beef from Canada following the discovery of BSE in Alberta in 2003. Only small amounts of Canadian beef have entered the country since then.

The 80 per cent tariff will remain on volumes above 5,250 tonnes but will be scaled down to zero over the next 12 years.

The deal hinges on ratification of free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru currently before Parliament.

With the agreement in place, annual Canadian beef exports to Colombia could climb to $20 million, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

Canada has been virtually shut out of South America’s beef market since 2003. Now that Colombia is reopening its market, other Andean nations are expected to follow, Ritz said during a telephone news conference from Lima, Peru.

“Colombia is very much a portal into the rest of South America, not just geographically but politically,” he said.

Before opening its borders, Colombia first wants more information about Canada’s two latest cases of BSE. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency will provide a detailed analysis and Colombia will deliver a final decision within 15 days of receiving it.

Once the free trade agreement is ratified, Colombia could become one of Canada’s top 10 beef markets, said John Masswohl, international relations director for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

“That’s a pretty good foot in the door.”

Ritz recently reached other trade agreements with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Hong Kong to help restore beef markets lost to BSE.

But South Korea continues to refuse Canadian beef, despite accepting beef from the United States. Canada recently asked for consultations with South Korea as the first step toward a World Trade Organization dispute panel. [email protected]

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