by SUSAN MANN
Canada’s beef industry got a huge boost today after Japan agreed to further relax its limitations on Canadian beef exports.
Martin Unrau, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, says today’s exciting federal government announcement is very significant for Canadian beef farmers. The Japanese decision goes into effect Friday and means beef from Canadian cattle under 30 months old will be eligible for shipment to Japan for the first time in nearly a decade. The current requirement only permits boneless beef exports from animals less than 21 months of age.
The increased market access will breathe new life into the Canadian beef sector, he notes.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the expanded market access for Canada at a press teleconference in Ottawa today. The beef products included in the Japanese agreement are boneless, bone-in and select offal, he says.
“This achievement is the result of a lot of hard work on the part of the government working shoulder-to-shoulder with industry both here in Canada and through our embassy in Japan,” Ritz says. “I’d like to give a special thanks to Dr. Gary Little, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency vet who carried this file.”
Ritz says Canada is also very appreciative “to Japan for arriving at this science-based outcome and taking this important step.”
Speaking at the press conference, Unrau says the new rule will essentially double the number of cattle eligible to be used for beef production for Japan and “enable Canada to export on a year round basis.” The beef access expansion enables Canadian beef exporters to better serve Japanese meat importers who wanted a steady year-round supply. But it wasn’t possible to provide that as part of the beef export restriction to animals under 21 months of age.
Japan is Canada’s third largest export market for beef. Canadian exports of beef from animals under 21 months of age for the past three years were worth about $70 to $75 million annually. The increased access is expected to double the potential market value to the range of $140-$150 million a year, according to figures provided by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
Since the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in 2003, the government and industry have been working hard to reopen markets and gain full market access for Canadian beef.
Ritz says in working towards full market access, Canada has used a staged access agreement like the one it’s using with Japan in other countries and now has full access for beef in regions such as Hong Kong. Staging access “helps us to build and manage the growth of our industry over the next few years,” he notes. BF