Ottawa proposes levy on imported pork products

Canada wants to start charging a levy on imported pork to help fund research and promotion activities.

The federal government is proposing to establish the Canadian Pork Promotion and Research Agency to manage the levy and help co-ordinate research and promotion activities.

The proposal was published in the March 7 edition of the Canada Gazette Part I.

The import levy would amount to 75 cents per hog and would be applied to all pork products based on a formula that converts the per hog levy to a pork-based levy.

Canada imported 157,026 tonnes of fresh and frozen pork in 2019 and another 233,699 tonnes of processed pork. The vast majority of the imports are from the United States.

Gary Stordy, director of government and corporate affairs with the Canadian Pork Council, said the formation of the Canadian Pork Promotion and Research Agency has been in the works for about eight years.

“It’s time,” he said.

“It will bring us in line similar to what’s in the United States.”

The beef sector has had a similar organization in place since 2002 called the Canadian Beef Check-Off Agency.

The levy on pork imports is expected to generate about $2 million in annual revenue to be spent on research and promotion.

There will also be an opportunity to direct some of the approximately $20 million in provincial levy revenue to help fund collaborative research and promotion projects co-ordinated by the new agency.

Stordy referred to the proposed new national body as an “umbrella framework” where provincial pork groups can access the most current and relevant research and promotion information.

“For the individual producers, nothing is going to change,” he said.

“They won’t notice any difference.”

The regulatory impact analysis statement in the Canada Gazette indicates there are shortcomings with the current approach to how levy dollars are spent.

“The Canadian Pork Council’s current system for supporting promotion and research through a patchwork of efforts at the provincial level is inefficient and ineffective at both the national and international levels,” it said.

“In addition, the increasing complexity of the issues impacting the sector, their interwoven nature and new marketing opportunities, as well as the escalating cost of addressing them, means that a more strategic, co-ordinated and national approach is required.”

Stordy said the provincial groups will still have the responsibility of ensuring grower dollars are spent effectively. The national organization will just provide them with an opportunity to collaborate on various research and development projects.

According to the impact statement in the Canada Gazette, provincial research is focused on reducing the cost of production in the local area.

That will remain a priority, but the proposed new national agency could explore other research topics such as understanding consumer attitudes toward pork, differentiating the product and better preparing the industry for animal health and disease challenges.

Provincial promotion activities are focused on branding the provincial organization and providing recipe information for the local area.

“While these activities have merit, a marketing approach with a focus on improving attitudes towards the healthfulness of pork products, through dietitians and other public opinion influencers, is better co-ordinated at a national level,” stated the Canada Gazette.

Andrew Dickson, general manager of Manitoba Pork, said the new national agency is not allowed to lobby governments and can only fund generic pork advertising and promotion efforts.

“It can’t be Canadian marketing. There’s a few people going, ‘so we’re helping the Americans?’ ” he said.

“But on the other hand, the American promotion has to be generic as well.”

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