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Lacombe butcher may export to China

The road to China will soon run through Lacombe for some Canadian beef producers.

Canadian Premium Meats has received approval from the Chinese government to export beef to the Asian country. Werner Siegrist, a director with the Lacombe processor, said his phone has been busy since the announcement was made last week.

“It certainly caused a lot of big waves here,” he said.

“We’re getting a lot of inquiries, actually from both sides: people from Canada interested in doing something in exporting, as well as from the Chinese saying, ‘Can we get Canada beef?’”

Siegrist and his partners expect to be shipping beef to China by spring, although they’re still awaiting official shipping documents.

“As well, there’s requirements in labelling we have to fulfil,” said Siegrist. “Chinese labelling.”

Also receiving export approval last week was Les Viandes Laroche Inc. of Asbestos, Que., and Toronto processors Ryding Regency Meat Packers Ltd. and St. Helen’s Meat Packers Ltd. That brings to seven the number of Canadian facilities authorized to send beef to China.

In June 2011, China agreed to allow imports of Canadian deboned beef from animals under 30 months of age. Canadian Premium Meats applied for permission to ship to China soon after, and in March underwent an inspection by Chinese officials, said Siegrist.

“There were minor things they wanted a little different.”

He’s not sure what volumes of meat his plant will send to China, but sees a huge potential.

Canada Beef Inc. has estimated that the Chinese market for deboned beef from Canadian cattle under 30 months of age is worth about $20 million annually. Once full market access is achieved, it added, the figure should grow to $110 million.

These numbers could be higher, were it not for China’s restrictions on ractopamine — a common livestock feed additive that promotes leanness, said the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. But it added that smaller processors like Canadian Premium Meats should be more flexible than their bigger counterparts when it comes to satisfying China’s ractopamine requirements.

Ron Glaser, vice-president of corporate affairs with Canada Beef, also pointed out that the anticipated trade in Canadian beef with China reflects the fact that the herd size here is at a low point. That means more heifers will be retained for breeding purposes, and will not be available for sale into the meat market.

But, he added, gaining access to China is still important to the Canadian beef industry.

“We know that it’s going to be a growth market for us for many, many years to come.”

A federally inspected plant that deals in a variety of species, Canadian Premium Meats is certified to process halal and organic meats. It’s also European Union approved, and has shipped product to Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Vietnam, said Siegrist.



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