Our March 31, 2016 issue marks the third and final instalment in a series of Special Reports prepared by Glacier FarmMedia reporters on how the Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement (CETA) between Canada and Europe will affect Canadian food producers and processors.
No load of hogs will ever travel from James Hofer’s Hutterite colony to Europe.
Nor will he likely know if any meat from his pigs ends up in Euro-bellies.
But he’s sure the Canada-EU free trade deal will bring more money to his west-of-Winnipeg community hog operation.
“With the percentage of pork that we need to export, any trade deal that we can negotiate will ultimately benefit the grassroots farmer, because the demand for the product is there and we’ll continue to grow it if the demand is there,” said Hofer.
That mood is general amongst hog barn operators across Canada. The deal with Europe will create another outlet for a product Canada produces to world standards but often has trouble getting into overseas markets.
Presently almost no Canadian pork goes to Europe. Various small allowances for special types of Canadian pork exist in trade agreements, but few exporters attempt to reach the European market.
Because of extremely small tariff-free quotas for Canadian pork, most processors aren’t willing to set up segregated slaughter and processing that can guarantee that none of the products or processes banned by Europe are not in their pork products.
The CETA creates a tariff-free quota for 80,000 tonnes of Canadain pork, as long as it does not contain certain common North American feed additives and doesn’t involve banned packing processes.
That’s a big expansion of the present few thousand tonnes allowed, and might tempt some small processors to go through the European certification system and solicit EU-friendly meat from compliant hog farms, the industry hopes.
Ron Davidson of the Canadian Meat Council said the CETA could lead to $400 million in pork exports if the complications of the European market can be worked out.
However, whether CETA will ever go from providing apparent market access to representing real access depends on how the deal is implemented.
Davidson said the regulations around technical matters will be key, as will the attitude of European regulators in applying the regulations.
Canadian Pork Council president Rick Bergmann said gaining official access to Europe is important, whether or not people expect Europeans to be fair or reasonable in implementing the access.
“In order to catch fish, you have to put your hook on the line,” said Bergmann.
“Our hook is on the line.”
And he said every extra tonne sold beyond Canada helps drag up the value of Canadian pork, and that’s something that will feed right back to farm gate prices for pigs.
“None of us are on an island. We’re all in this together,” said Bergmann.
“If we’re able to help our exporters and processors enter new markets, valuable markets, it’s not that we would like a piece of the pie: we need a piece of the pie.”
Hofer doesn’t need to be convinced CETA will probably help him and his colony.
“Any trade deal that we can negotiate with different companies will absolutely help our position in moving our product and marketing it.”