Livestock genetics companies hit export snag with China

The Canadian Beef Breeds Council says the country has not indicated why it has not renewed the licences for this year

China has not renewed export licences for two Canadian livestock genetics companies but it is unclear whether the delay is part of recent trade issues between the two countries.

Alta Genetics, based in Balzac, Alta., and Semex, based in Guelph, Ont., are the two companies known to be affected. China is a major customer when it comes to exported cattle genetics sold as semen and embryos.

Michael Latimer, executive director of the Canadian Beef Breeds Council, said China has not indicated why it has not renewed the licences for 2019. Given China’s refusal to accept Canadian canola and its more recent issues with product from two Canadian pork processors, the delay facing the two livestock genetics companies is suspected by some to be part of the same trend.

“When you get dealing in these international markets, there is a process to work through and inspections are part of that process. And permits are renewed from time to time,” said Latimer.

“I don’t know how this relates to the politics. There hasn’t been a political statement given for it. I don’t know if this has been caught up with the pork issues and the canola issues that we’ve also been hearing about. There’s been no indication of that but I can’t rule it out either.”

AltaGenetics did not return calls by press time and Semex said queries should be directed to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association referred queries to Latimer at the beef breeds council.

In an emailed statement, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the government continues to support the livestock genetics industry.

“As part of normal business, Customs China regularly conducts audit visits to our genetics livestock centres exporting to China, just as Canada conducts audits in other countries from whom we import agricultural goods,” said Bibeau.

“We are working to arrange another audit as soon as possible in order to renew the export certificates of our genetic livestock companies. Administrative issues such as this arise periodically in the normal course of our agricultural trade with China, as with other countries.”

Latimer said Canadian livestock genetics exports to China are substantial.

“We’ve actually worked as the Canadian Beef Breeds Council since 2016 to improve relations with China … and we still have those relationships with those people and that hasn’t changed one bit.

“But any time you’re dealing with international trade, it can change very rapidly for any number of reasons.

“We do have a very good historical relationship with China and that will resume again. We’re confident of that. These ongoing higher-level trade disputes, they’re complex and they’ll get resolved. It’s in the interests of both countries to work together.”

Agriculture Canada export figures indicate China was Canada’s top export market for beef cattle semen in 2017, buying product valued at $3.14 million. Also in 2017, China purchased $6.57 million worth of dairy cattle semen and $779,299 worth of beef embryos.

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