Canadian beef sector targets German market

Canada Beef has partnered with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in Germany to try increasing interest in Canadian beef in that country. | Reuters/Christian Charisius photo

Exporters attempt to find ways to improve on the $61,000 worth of sales it made to the European country last year

With a population of 83 million and the fourth largest economy in the world, Germany is an attractive market for Canada’s agri-food industry.

Some agricultural producers, like Canada’s maple syrup sector, have had success in the German market. In 2019, Canada exported $42 million worth of maple syrup to Germany.

That’s positive, but other agri-food exporters haven’t been as successful.

In 2020, Canada sold $61,000 of beef into the German market. To put that in context, the suggested retail price of a Ford-150 Raptor is around $80,000.

Canada Beef, which develops markets domestically and internationally for Canadian beef, is hoping to improve the paltry sales figures to Germany.

It has partnered with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in Germany in a campaign called Taste of Canada.

“(It) is an initiative designed to inform German consumers about Canadian cuisine and typical Canadian food products available for purchase in Germany,” Canada Beef said in a June newsletter. “The campaign consists of both a German-language website and posts on social media channels including articles on Canadian cuisine, recipes and more.”

The small amount of Canadian beef consumed in Germany is sold through restaurants, meat shops and online stores.

Canada Beef and companies that sell Canadian beef in Europe have a branding problem in much of the European Union.

“One thing we’ve identified in many European markets, not only Germany, is there isn’t a lot of recognition of Canadian beef…. People really don’t know what Canadian beef is,” said Albert Eringfeld, executive director of export market development with Canada Beef.

“Our goal is to try and improve the knowledge and therefore exports of Canadian beef to Europe, over the long run.”

Canadian firms and importers in Germany promote Canadian beef as a high-quality, grain-fed product, which distinguishes it from grass-fed beef from places like Australia.

Such branding could help, but Canada Beef doesn’t spend a significant amount of money on the German market.

Canada Beef employs full-time marketing staff in Mexico, Japan, China and Taiwan, but doesn’t have a representative in Europe.

That’s because Canadian beef exports to Europe are tiny — Canada sold about $15 million in beef to all of Europe (not including the United Kingdom) in 2020. In comparison, annual exports to Japan are more than $300 million.

Eringfeld, who manages the overseas offices for Canada Beef, has no plans to open an office in Europe.

“I wouldn’t say so, at the moment,” he said. “If required, we might hire a consultant to do a particular project…. We’ll follow the sales. If sales really start to increase… we would look at it.”

Currently, sales to Europe are disappointing, seeing how Canada has a free trade agreement with the EU. It’s been difficult to export to places like Germany because the EU requires Canadian farms, feedlots and packing plants to meet European standards. Those standards ban the use of growth hormones and require packers to use a particular carcass wash that isn’t used in Canada.

These requirements serve as barriers to trade because many Canadian packers and exporters don’t bother with the European market. They would rather focus on Japan, China, Vietnam and South Korean, where buyer demand is greater and trade barriers are less onerous.

Despite the roadblocks, the EU market may be worth the trouble.

“When you compare it to all the other regions and countries we export to, it is the highest value per kilo… for Canadian beef,” Eringfeld said. “There is a premium in Europe for beef.”

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