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Canada Beef Exports To Rise Slightly In 2010

Canadian beef exports will increase slightly this year despite the cattle industry’s decline, as exports to Mexico and Asia offset fewer shipments to the United States, a top export official said Feb. 18.

Farmers and ranchers have downsized their herds of hogs and cattle to the smallest levels in more than a decade due to high feed costs, a strong Canadian dollar and a U. S. meat-labelling law that has reduced livestock exports to the United States.

Canadian beef shipments topped 414,000 tonnes in 2009, a less than one per cent increase over the previous year but an encouraging sign given the implementation of the U. S. country-of-origin labelling law for meat, which has discouraged imports by packers and retailers.

“We were able to end up in a stable year when by almost any other measurement the economy went backwards,” said Ted Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation. “It absolutely is an amazing outcome.”

In 2010, Canadian beef exporters plan to ship 421,000 tonnes of beef, a 1.7 per cent increase over last year, Haney said. They expect to ship 306,000 tonnes to the United States – a four per cent reduction because of the labelling law.

Shippers will send an estimated 19 per cent more beef, or 100,000 tonnes in total, to Asia and Mexico combined, he said. Mexico is coming off a year in which the H1N1 flu held back beef consumption, while Japan and Taiwan are buying more from Canada.

A new age-verification system in the western province of Alberta produced more cattle last year to supply Japan, which accepts Canadian beef from animals under 21 months.

Higher exports are possible because shrinking beef supplies are partly offset by lower demand in Canada and the United States, Haney said.

SLAUGHTER RATES KEY

Canada’s pork export prospects for 2010 hinge on whether downsizing of the country’s hog herd cuts into slaughter volumes, said Jacques Pomerleau, executive director of Canada Pork International.

Currently, Canadian packers have ample supplies because the labelling law has resulted in fewer livestock moving to the United States for processing, Pomerleau said. With slaughter volumes holding steady, exports have not fallen with the herd size.

It’s not clear if those supplies will still be adequate in 2010 as farmers continue their exit, Pomerleau said.

The trend in Canadian pork consumption will also help determine how much pork is available for export, Pomerleau said. Domestic pork consumption is currently high because store prices are low.

Resolving export barriers to Russia and China will also be important. China continues to ban Canadian pork over last year’s H1N1 flu concerns. Russia is accepting pork from only some Canadian plants.

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