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Red meat sectors get new government export initiative

“We need to negotiate in four or five continents, not just one market at a time.”

– Travis Toews, CCA

Ottawa is giving Canada’s hog and cattle producers a belated Christmas present by boosting its efforts to expand foreign markets.

The government is creating a separate body with a mandate to improve foreign market access for beef and pork.

A so-called market access secretariat will pursue greater market access in countries beyond the U. S., including Mexico, China, Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Forming the secretariat was a key recommendation in a report to government in November by the Beef Cattle and Pork Value Chair Roundtables.

In a Jan. 9 announcement, the government said it will also “pursue commercially significant access to beef markets” as a step to achieving full access as recommended by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Cattle producers hailed the move as something they’ve been after for a long time.

“It’s a big step forward,” said Travis Toews, chair of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s foreign trade committee.

Canada’s cattle producers say they are enormously frustrated by the fact that, over 5-1/2 years after BSE, most of their major beef markets are still restricted.

This even though OIE rules say full trade in beef from countries with BSE should resume after specified risk materials (SRMs) are removed from carcasses at slaughter, as Canada’s slaughterhouses now do.

CCA is also critical of what it calls Canada’s inadequate and unco-ordinated approach to negotiating market access for beef.

Federal officials who go overseas to restore foreign markets lost to BSE are often technical staff lacking the authority to finalize trade agreements, CCA says.

Creating a separate bureaucracy with the power to go around the world and make agreements is “a very important first step” in expanding Canada’s beef trade, said Toews, who raises cattle at Beaverlodge, Alta.

“We need to negotiate in four or five continents, not just one market at a time.”

Added Joe Bouchard, Manitoba Cattle Producers Association president: “Access to a variety of markets around the world is critical to moving all cuts of our animals and is the only means of maximizing the total value for the industry.”

CCA says the move could increase Canadian producers’ returns by as much as $100 per head of cattle. If the government implements all 25 recommendations in the round table report, beef exports could increase by up to $6.3 billion by 2015.

CCA spearheads a branding strategy called the Canadian Beef Advantage. It aims at raising the profile and sales of Canadian beef at home and overseas.

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