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Canada Gets Foot In EU Beef Door

An agreement giving Canada access to an EU beef import quota could provide a beachhead for increased Canadian beef sales to Europe.

Canada will have duty-free access to a 20,000- tonne quota for hormone-free beef exports to the EU which could be worth $10 million a year, according to the Canadian Beef Export Federation.

More important, it establishes a foothold for improved future shipments, says the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

“It’s a drop in the bucket of overall EU potential. But for the people in the Canadian industry that produce hormone- free beef, I think it’s a very big deal for them,” said John Masswohl, CCA’s director of government and international relations.

Previously, the Uni ted States had nearly sole access to the 20,000-tonne quota established in 2009, although Australia joined in early 2010. Now Canada is able to share in the quota.

The quota is for beef from cattle raised without the use of growth promotants, which are banned in Europe.

Canada did not have previous access to the quota because it could not meet product specifications for hormone-free beef, Masswohl said.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a hormone- free protocol. But the EU requires beef graded by government graders, which Canada does not have. It has the Canada Beef Grading Agency instead.

So the CFIA deputized some CBGA graders and the EU accepts that as equivalent, said Masswohl.

John Masswohl, Cca

The 20,000-tonne quota is not allocated by nation. Access is first come, first served. An available volume opens up every month for exporting countries to go after. Any unused amount is rolled over to the next month.

The 20,000-tonne quota was established under the World Trade Organization as part of an agreement to compensate the U.S. and other beef-exporting countries for losses caused by the EU ban on growth promotants.

Masswohl could not predict how much of the 20,000 tonnes Canada will obtain.

“We can get as much as we can get,” he said. “I’ll let you know after it occurs.”

But Masswohl said Canada already has small amounts of hormone-free beef going into Europe under a separate 11,500-tonne quota with a 20 per cent duty. Canadian shippers have been swallowing the levy in order to establish contacts with European buyers.

“Now we can use those commercial connections. We have the beef. We can stop taking that 20 per cent out of our pocket and grow that trade.”

The growth will come when the EU increases the 20,000-tonne quota to 45,000 tonnes by 2012 under the WTO agreement, Masswohl predicted. A further staged addition of 3,200 tonnes will bring the total quota to 48,200 tonnes.

Although the WTO previously ruled against the EU’s ban on beef raised with growth promotants, Europeans remain suspicious of perceived additives to food, according to surveys.

Recently published research by the European Food Safety Authority found 30 per cent of consumers had concerns about hormones and antibiotics in meat. [email protected]


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