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A new strategy for developing Canada’s beef sector

This strategy is about how we can work together to best position our industry to compete for a larger share of the world market and to become the high-quality beef product of choice in the world

The following is an excerpt from the executive summary from the recently released document “Investing in a strong future for Canada’s beef industry,” which maps out an aggressive strategy for industry development both short and long term. The full document can be found at: www.beefstrategy.com.

The Canadian beef industry is at a pivotal point in time. Cattle numbers are down across much of the world and demand for high-quality protein is increasing in most developing nations. The majority of markets closed due to BSE have been reopened and a number of new and very significant trade agreements will come into effect over the next several years that open new opportunities for Canada’s beef industry.

Today the industry is enjoying record beef and live cattle prices. In the past this would have attracted record imports of manufacturing beef into Canada and the U.S., but with strong world demand particularly in Asia and Brazil and tight world supplies, those beef products are sold at a better return into those markets. It is believed that the Canadian beef industry has moved into a new price range that can and needs to be sustained in order to create the returns necessary to stabilize and grow our cattle numbers.

More competition

Normally, the current conditions would compel a strong and rapid expansion of cattle numbers in North America. However, with strong returns in the grains and oilseeds sector and strong future prospects, there is more competition for arable land and more acres being cultivated into annual crop production. Canada’s beef cattle numbers are stabilizing and should begin to grow. This is likely to be much slower than seen in most previous cattle cycles as producers choose between the economics and risks of annual cropping or raising cattle. Higher feed and production costs, as well as greater market volatility will also be major factors affecting producers’ decision-making processes moving forward.

Given the expectation for continued growth in global beef demand coupled with tight supplies, there is an opportunity for the Canadian beef industry to position itself strategically and grow demand for Canadian beef products globally.

Identified priorities

To help make this happen, national and provincial industry organizations worked together to address identified priorities and ensure key initiatives are appropriately funded. With Canada currently at the bottom of its cattle cycle, checkoff revenues are the smallest since the early 1990s.

Since the National Checkoff was introduced in 2002, inflation and a reduced number of marketings resulted in less checkoff collected, limiting resources.

The need for all beef industry stakeholders to collaboratively discuss funding issues and to develop, implement, and report on a national strategy that could be used to communicate the value of checkoff to producers is clear. Acting on this, representatives from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), its provincial members, Canada Beef Inc. and Beef Cattle Research Council (National Checkoff recipients), the Canadian Beef Breeds Council (CBBC) and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) have worked together as the National Beef Strategic Planning Group (NBSPG) to draft this National Beef Strategy.

This strategy is about how we can work together to best position our industry to compete for a larger share of the world market and to become the high-quality beef product of choice in the world.

The Strategic Plan has been developed with the aim to achieve targeted industry goals that are aligned with the industry’s vision and mission under four pillars, beef demand, competitiveness, productivity and connectivity. The pillars identify key focus areas where industry stakeholders work together to collectively achieve the outcomes identified.

Under each focus area specific outcomes have been defined that work towards meeting the goals established by industry. The goals established are measurable benchmarks for which the industry is held accountable.

Beef demand

The goal of the beef demand pillar is to enhance beef demand and as a result enhance carcass cut-out values by 15 per cent over the next five years. This will be achieved by focusing on domestic and global marketing, market access, validating and enhancing the Canadian Beef Advantage, consumer confidence and social licence.

Competitiveness

The goal of the competitiveness pillar is to reduce production cost disadvantages compared to our main competitors by seven per cent over the next five years. This will be achieved by focusing on regulatory burden, access to competitively priced inputs, maintaining and enhancing key research capacity, and economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Productivity

The goal of the productivity pillar is to increase production efficiency by 15 per cent, through focusing on genetic selection, research and development, technology development and adoption, and enhanced information flow.

Connectivity

The fourth pillar, connectivity, is unique in its goal which is to enhance industry synergies, connect positively with consumers, the public, government, and partner industries by actively addressing industry issues.

The NBSPG, with input from elected officials and members of their respective groups, is positioned to oversee the development and implementation of a five-year Strategic Plan.

The plan is intended to be supported and delivered through a comprehensive operational strategy upheld by the various provincial and national industry stakeholders. Funding scenarios to support the operational strategy and ensure resources are leveraged effectively on behalf of producers will be developed.

The Strategic Plan is intended to be a dynamic document and process, which continues to evolve based on stakeholder feedback and ongoing review as identified outcomes are achieved and industry priorities change.

The plan will also be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure the priorities and outcomes established are aligned with the needs of the beef cattle industry. Communicating a consistent message that transcends all industry activities and programming is imperative to maintain consumer confidence in the Canadian beef industry.

A National Beef Strategy involving the participation and agreement of all stakeholders demonstrates leadership and provides clarity to achieve industry commitment and ensure adequate funding to meet industry’s goals for the future.

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