Beef industry salutes trade deal, access to $1B foreign market

Canada’s livestock and meat processing industries are cheering last week’s agreement-in-principle on a Canada-European Union trade agreement, but significant work remains before the sectors can cash in.

The industries saluted it as a chance to access a $1 billion market.

“Compared to an average value of only $54 million of meat exports to the EU during the past three years, the results of the (free trade) negotiations will offer export opportunities with a potential annual sales value of up to $1 billion for Canadian beef, pork, horsemeat, bison and prepared meats,” said the Canadian Meat Council (CMC), which represents packers.

However, hurdles and investment requirements exist that have yet to be surmounted.

In the two years before the agreement takes effect, Canada and the EU have agreed to negotiate “technical barriers” that have often made access promises merely theoretical by invoking other rules to block access.

Packing plants will have to invest tens of millions of dollars to bring their production practices into alignment with EU rules.

And during that time, Canadian cattle producers interested in accessing the new EU market will have to segregate animals to ensure that hormone-treated cattle are not in the queue.

For hog producers, it means ensuring that the feed ingredient ractopamine is not used for hogs destined for the EU market, where it is banned.

The CMC estimates the market potential at $600 million for beef and $400 million for pork.

“I have not seen estimates on how much investment would be needed in the industry, but when this deal comes into force in two years, we’re talking access of $1 billion in beef and pork alone,” said Suzanne Sabourin, the council’s director of regulatory and international trade.

“We think this would be an opportunity that is worth the investment. But clearly, there is work to do before we are there.”

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