Pork snag not part of spat: industry

Canada Pork International official says tougher inspections seen recently in China are unrelated to diplomatic dispute

Pork is not China’s next trade target, says an industry official.

Reports surfaced last week that Canadian pork was suddenly facing increased inspection scrutiny in China.

The news came from the office of federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

In an email, she said she was recently made aware of increased inspection of pork products.

“All containers will be opened for inspection and in some instances 100 percent of the cartons will be inspected,” said the minister.

Gary Stordy, director of government and corporate affairs with Canada Pork International, said this is not a new development.

“We’ve been under regular inspection for some time as part of China’s efforts to manage African swine fever and counterfeit pork,” he said.

It is not just Canadian pork that is under China’s microscope. Other exporters face similar scrutiny.

He doesn’t believe it is related to China ramping up its spat with Canada over the detention of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, which many people believe is behind China’s ban on Canadian canola.

“Everybody is frankly incredibly sensitive and looking for the next problem,” said Stordy.

It doesn’t help that China recently suspended two Canadian pork processing plants for paperwork violations.

The Olymel plant in Red Deer and the Drummond Export plant in Drummondville, Que., have been delisted for documentation errors on pork shipments to China.

“It’s unfortunate that it has happened,” said Stordy.

The two plants are in the process of getting relisted. Meanwhile, there are 32 other Canadian pork processing plants that are licensed to ship to China.

“All the plants are doubling efforts to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The increased inspection of pork products doesn’t appear to be hampering trade.

Canada shipped 146 million kilograms of pork to China in the first four months of 2019, according to Statistics Canada. That is up 53 percent from the same period a year ago and makes China the top buyer in terms of quantity.

**The pork shipped to China was valued at $310 million, which ranks third behind the United States at $392 million and Japan at $424 million.**

Stordy said the heightened demand from China is due to the reduction of China’s hog herd from African swine fever.

“Moving forward, we expect China to start managing the outbreak, so demand will probably start falling off,” he said.

Peas are another product facing increased inspection scrutiny in China, according to Pulse Canada chief executive officer Gord Bacon.

“Some shipments are taking longer to clear inspections than might traditionally have been the case,” he said.

“But product is still going from Canada and we have not had any cargoes rejected.”

Canada shipped 388,348 tonnes of peas to China in the first four months of 2019, down 32 percent from the same period a year ago.

By contrast, canola exports to China have completely dried up.

Bibeau said Canadian plant health experts had a conference call with their Chinese counterparts on June 5 and have agreed to future teleconferences.

But China has still not agreed to allow a Canadian delegation into the country for face-to-face meetings.

“Regaining full access to the Chinese market for our canola is my top priority,” said the minister in an email.

In the meantime, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is calling for reforms to the AgriStability business risk management program to help farmers deal with ongoing trade disruptions.

The CFA wants AgriStability’s margin coverage restored to 85 percent and the reference margin limit removed.

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