By BETTER FARMING STAFF
Recent developments have made securing a trade agreement with Korea absolutely critical to the Canadian pork industry says the leader of the national producer organization.
A trade agreement between the United States and South Korea came into effect earlier this month. Jean-Guy Vincent, the new chair of the Canadian Pork Council, predicts that competitors in the United States will squeeze Canada out of that market in in 12 months unless a comparable trade agreement is achieved.
South Korea takes 10 per cent of Canada’s substantial pork exports and another home would have to be found for those prime cuts, Vincent said at the Ontario Pork annual meeting in Guelph Tuesday. “The loss of the market will have a trickle down effect for producers,” Vincent warns. More farmers will be driven out of business and even processors will have to cut back or even shut down. Vincent rushed out of the meeting to catch a plane to go on a trade mission to southeast Asia. “We need to reassure our trade partners” that we want to continue the relationship, Vincent says.
According to Canada Pork International, the industry’s international marketing arm, Canadian pork faces a 25 per cent tariff on frozen product, 22.5 per cent on chilled pork and varying tariffs of 18 to 27 per cent for offals. The only duty-free exemption is for 70,000 tonnes of bellies until the end of June. That market is available to all foreign suppliers, not just Canada.
The CPC has been taking the message to Ottawa since the fall, says Gary Stordy, public relations for CPC. “It is not resonating” because of concerns about the auto industry or trying to get other products into Korea, Stordy says.
Tariffs are being reduced by three per cent per year, starting in a few months, and then three points more the following year. “In two years, we will be at 27 and they (the Americans) will be six points below. We are being pushed out of the market. Traders and processor representatives selling directly to food users and supermarkets are already unable to sign contracts more than 45 days a ahead.
Maintaining existing major markets is critical, Vincent says. Expanding markets have a history of refusing shipments of pork for seemingly minor infractions. Vincent also noted that Canada’s domestic conditions have changed. Producers in the United States see Canada as a lucrative market for their production.
While Canada won a WTO trade panel with the United States over Country of Origin (COOL) labelling, and Vincent expects that Canada will also win an appeal, he doesn’t think legislation will get changed any time soon because there is an election pending.
Vincent has been a farmer for 43 years. His farm sells 25,000 pigs a year. He farms at Sainte-Séraphine,Quebec, near Drummondville. BF