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China's meat import ban compounds difficult situation for Sask. producers

While the impact of a ban on Canadian meat imports to China has yet to be seen, Saskatchewan farmers already grappling with a dry spring are feeling the pressure.
With a dry spring, only recently mitigated by rain over the weekend, China’s ban on the import of Canadian meat products has compounded an already difficult situation for Saskatchewan’s meat producers.
Ryder Lee, CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association, has been busy fielding calls from cattle farmers in the wake of the announcement. Lee said the impact of the ban has yet to be seen, but farmers are already feeling the pressure.
“It adds uncertainty to everybody’s life and we don’t need another complication. We were just happy to get some rain on the weekend,” Lee said. “I’ve been getting calls from people who are concerned and want it fixed, and want it fixed now.”
China announced Tuesday that it would ban all meat imports from Canada after it said trace amounts of a feed additive banned in the country were found in imported pork products.
In a statement sent to the National Post on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Chinese embassy said ractopamine, which makes hogs leaner and is permitted for use in Canada, was found in pork shipments. The statement said 188 veterinary certificates for the animals were found to be forged.
The country suspended the issuing of export certificates for all Canadian pork and beef products as of June 25.
“All we can do is wait it out, I guess. Because what are we to do? The drought situation is enough on peoples’ minds, let alone something like this,” said Murray Andrews, co-owner of Triple A Herefords, a cattle farm outside Moose Jaw.
“Some guys are selling off cattle, equity of their cow herd to sustain themselves so that they can get enough feed, and flooded markets lower prices,” Andrews said. “This happening overseas is just going to lessen them more — we as producers can’t carry on like this.”
Chad MacPherson, general manager of the Saskatchewan Stock Grower’s Association, said the most pressing issue at the moment is the uncertainty in the market that the ban will create.
China is a significant market for Canadian meat. In 2018, Canada’s pork exports to China were valued at $514 million. China is the third largest consumer of Canadian pork by tonnage, totalling approximately 283,000 tonnes in 2018.
Canadian beef exports to China so far this year total $63 million. According to The Canadian Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, exports of beef and veal to China increased by almost 20 per cent between 2017 and 2018.
“If we lost that market, it kind of creates a bit of a void as far as whether our product goes,” MacPherson said. “We need to find other markets for those products.”
He pointed to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) signed last year as a potential source of relief in reaching the Asian market, especially in Japan, where in 2018 imports of beef and veal and pork increased about 20 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively.
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