Alberta beef producers don’t expect the Chinese meat ban to be lifted anytime soon.
“I think we have to be realistic. With the type of challenge it is, there’s always that possibility it could go away tomorrow morning, but I think, realistically, we’re in this for a while,” said Charlie Christie, chair of the Alberta Beef Producers.
“I have no idea what ‘a while’ means, but I think we need to be looking at other places to send our meat. When this (ban) opens up, we’ll take advantage of the opportunity.”
China asked Canada to suspend all meat exports in June.
The federal Conservatives are calling on the Liberal government to update Canadians on the actions they have taken to resolve the ban.
Conservative agriculture critic Luc Berthold noted the original Chinese ban of Canadian meat products was reportedly due to counterfeit Canadian Food Inspection Agency export certificates.
“It is our expectation that the CFIA has put in place adequate safeguards to assure the Chinese government that this will not occur again,” said Berthold.
Some commodities, like Canadian soy, have not shipped to China since December.
The Chinese said customs inspectors detected residue from a restricted feed additive called ractopamine in a batch of Canadian pork products. The additive has permitted uses in Canada, but is banned in China.
Further investigation revealed counterfeit veterinary health certificates attached to the batch of pork exported to China.
“The real disappointing part was that these markets were open and it was a way to add value to every carcass,” said Christie, who farms north of Torrington.
“Typically, these types of markets take part of the carcass that isn’t marketable here in North America.”
It’s hard to tell exactly how much impact the Chinese meat ban is having on the beef industry, Christie said.
China “is not a large portion of our market. Our plants, in the last month, have killed the highest level of cattle in this time frame … since 2010,” he said.
“We’re still exporting a lot of cattle, but it does still have an effect, because it was getting up as high as six per cent of our exports.
“Year over year, last year was 2.6 per cent, but it really jumped in the first quarter of this year and that’s the disappointing part.”
Beef producers are “definitely concerned” by the meat ban, Christie said, adding the industry group has requested the federal government assist in market diversification around the world.
“That’s how we fight this type of thing – so we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. Rather than the government giving up an ad hoc payment, such as the U.S. has done, we would rather see investment in the whole industry over time and be a long-term solution.”
–With files from The Canadian Press