British beef exports to Canada approved

The United Kingdom has received approval to export manufacturing beef to Canada.

Representatives from the British meat trade in England, Scotland and Wales have been negotiating the deal since 2015, said a news release from the U.K. Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

The original trade agreement covered primal cuts and manufacturing beef, but the focus has been on ensuring that manufacturing beef could be tested to meet microbiological standards required by Canadian authorities.

This product is used for processed meat such as ground beef, said Alan Schlacher of the Canadian Meat Council.

Canada imports from a number of countries because it needs lean beef for processed products. However, beef trade with the European Union is miniscule even with a free trade agreement signed in September.

“There are restrictions in that Europe has not approved modern processing aids that are used in North America,” said Schalcher.

This is a technical issue because the Europeans do not approve the carcass cleaning methods used to remove pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7

“Under CETA we have more access than we could ever use because of the technical restraints that block our trade,” he said.

Canadian groups have been in contact with meat and trade representatives from the U.K. and Ireland because both sides are interested in doing business.

Ireland is looking for alternative markets for its beef because once the U.K. separates from the European Union next year, a large market could be affected.

“There is large interest in shipping beef to other parts of the world, and Canada is one those destinations,” said Schalcher.

They have shipped small amounts of processing beef, but E. coli was detected in a shipment sent to the United States last year. They do not have the same food safety practices and the risks of recall are costly, so it restricts Irish trade with Canada and the U.S.

The volumes on both sides of the border should increase over time, said John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

“We have always said the EU is a niche market and it can grow, but it is going to take some time to get the various pieces together,” he said.

Besides resolving food safety issues, there is also a quota system in place.

The quota is divided into four quarters in the calendar year. The first quota available was Oct. 1, but it takes about a month to prepare a proposal so no one was about to get any allocation until mid-November. Over five years the quota for fresh product will expand to 35,000 tonnes.

Masswohl said Canadian exporters are gearing up, and by this spring some activity could start.

In addition, cattle must be produced without growth promoting hormones, and accredited Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians are needed to certify the product.

Specific production requirements for cattle that are used to produce beef for export to the European Union come under the Canadian Program for Certifying Freedom from Growth Enhancing Products for Export of Beef to the EU.

“We do know there are producers in Canada who are producing cattle without using the growth technologies which the EU bans. Cattle are available. The constraint is not so much on the cattle side,” Masswohl said.

“So far the constraint has been on the packer side and the ability to access the quota.”

Canadian officials have met with U.K. and Irish officials and all sides want to see trade develop.

“We need to have beef traders and beef producers that are successful in the European markets that are successful and shipping products over here, so we have allies over there that have some skin in the game,” he said.

The trade is not expected to be large, and market development takes time.

“I acknowledge the timelines are not ideal or as fast as we would like them to be, but I am confident we will get there,” Masswohl said.

For more information, visit www.cattle.ca/market-access/market-access-requirements/eu/.

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