Beef, pork exports to China to resume

UPDATED: November 5, 2019 1445 CST – After months of no sales, Canada can once again export pork and beef to China.

This morning, just before lunch, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that Canadian pork and beef sales to China could resume.

The Canadian Pork Council and Canadian Meat Council congratulated Trudeau and the government on the news.

“We are very appreciative of the efforts of government officials to help restore reliable access to China” said Rick Bergmann, pork council chair. “We’d like to thank Canadian Agriculture and Agri-food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr for the leadership they have shown in working to resolve this issue. We look forward to working with Ambassador Barton to further strengthen Canadian-Chinese relations”.

The meat council also praised federal government officials.

“Our long-standing trade relationship with China is very important to both sides and this represents an important step for both countries” said Chris White, meat council president. “This is great news, especially on the eve of an industry-led mission to China that CMC has organized to meet with Chinese officials at all key ports where product lands to ensure a smooth operation moving forward.”

China suspended imports of Canadian meat in June.

The Chinese government said the ban was necessary because it had detected fake veterinary health certificates for Canadian pork. China also claimed it found traces of ractopamine, a growth promotant, in shipments of pork from Canada.

Ractopamine is banned in China.

The decision caught Canada’s meat industry off guard, particularly the beef sector, because an outright ban was a massive reaction to a relatively small problem. Plus, the documentation issue was related to pork, not beef.

Some argued that China was punishing Canada for the detention of Meng Wanzhou, an executive with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications firm. The United States is trying to extradite her to America, where she will face charges of violating international sanctions on Iran.

The federal government was able to regain market access, partly because the Canadian Food Inspection Agency sorted out China’s concerns around documentation.

“The CFIA… proposing improvements or changes to the process. That, frankly, was the real reason we are here today. We’ve learned, today, that the Chinese officials have accepted those technical changes,” said Gary Stordy, Canadian Pork Council director of government and corporate relations.

Stordy said the CFIA could provide more information about the changes.

But, essentially it means pork exporters must “pay attention to the detail… that we are meeting the import requirements.”

Another factor influencing China’s decision may have been the appointment of Dominic Barton as Canadian Ambassador to China.

Barton spent five years in Shanghai working for McKinsey, a global consultancy, and has deep connections in China.

The appointment sent a signal that Canada wants to re-engage with China and restore positive relations, Stordy said.

How much did Canada lose in meat sales because of the Chinese ban?

  • From January until June 25, when China announced the ban, Canada had exported about $500 million worth of pork to China and was on track to hit $1 billion.
  • Following the ban, Canadian pork was diverted to other markets – but anecdotal reports suggest it was costing the pork industry $10 million per week, in lost sales.
  • In September the Canadian Meat Council estimated the cost of the ban at $100 million and counting.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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