Bison prices increase with better access

WINNIPEG — Prices for Canadian bison are slowly gaining ground as the industry continues to try and expand its global footprint.

While the United States remains Canada’s largest export market, efforts have been made to increase access to Mexico, Europe and some parts of Asia.

Last year, about 11,500 animals were slaughtered domestically while 17,600 more were sent to the U.S.

“The industry is certainly interested in growth,” said Terry Kremeniuk, executive director of the Canadian Bison Association.

“The North American industry has set a goal of trying to grow the herd from 400,000 to a million over the next decade.”

Prices for bison have jumped in the past few years. In 2011, the price for a pound of grade A bison (hot hanging weight) was around C$4. That price stayed relatively the same until the latter portion of 2014 and 2015 when bids rose to C$5.30.

Now, prices for bison are around C$6 per lb.

Kremeniuk said the impact of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement has improved Canada’s access to the European Union.

“There used to be a 20 percent tariff on high-quality products going into the union,” he explained, adding he could see volumes increasing into the EU in the future.

More importantly the decline of the Canadian dollar has made bison exports more attractive to international buyers. On June 1, 2014, the loonie was worth 94 U.S. cents. It’s now closer to 77 cents.

This season looks to be another good one for the industry, although producers are keeping a wary eye on the dry conditions afflicting the Prairies.

“I am sure some people are concerned about it,” he said, adding it was still a little early for the dryness to affect most producers’ marketing decisions.

According to the CBA, there were roughly 55,000 bison living in Alberta in 2016. Saskatchewan was next with 40,400 and then Manitoba with 14,000 animals.

The country-wide total was just under 120,000 bison.

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