British Columbia

'Disappointing': B.C. meat producers react to Chinese ban on Canadian exports

Beef and pork producers in B.C. are worried about how a meat ban imposed by China could affect their business amid rising tensions between the Chinese and Canada.

Both Premier Horgan and MLA Mike de Jong link ban to Huawei executive's arrest in Vancouver

Cows at a farm in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Beef and pork producers in B.C. are worried about how a meat ban imposed by China could affect their business amid rising tensions between the Chinese and Canada.

China temporarily suspended all imports of Canadian meat starting Wednesday, citing regulatory issues. Chinese authorities say the ban is a result of a number of inauthentic veterinary health certificates accompanying some meat products bound for China.

"To have this happen right now is, of course, disappointing," said Kevin Boon, head of B.C. Cattleman's Association, a group that represents 1,200 cattle ranchers. 

Canadian Cattlemen's Association says exports to China accounted for 2.6 per cent of Canada's total beef exports in 2018  — and B.C.'s contribution is roughly $5 million in product per year.

Boon worries what will happen if the dispute isn't resolved quickly.

"The big thing is the long-term ability to move more product in there and create stability for us  — and that's in jeopardy with this."

Canadian pork for sale at a butcher shop in Vancouver's Chinatown. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Jack Dewitt, head of the B.C. Pork Producers Association, is also worried. 

"China over the years has been a growing market and a premium market, and some of the other markets might not give the producers and the processors the same returns," Dewitt said. 

Horgan reacts

But many in Canada — including B.C. premier John Horgan — are skeptical about the reasons behind the ban, claiming it's another retaliatory move stemming from the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver since last December.

"I can't help but see this as being connected in some way to the Huawei extradition process is underway... So we're going to work hard to make sure that those alleged fraudulent certificates are exposed, if they exist, and we'll go from there," Horgan said.

Mike de Jong, the B.C. Liberal MLA for Abbotsford West who counts many Fraser Valley farmers among his constituents, called it "intimidation, pure and simple."

"It's economic and commercial intimidation, but it's intimidation nonetheless, and I think the Chinese government should be ashamed of themselves," he said. 

De Jong says Canada should be sending a strong message to China: we'll take our business elsewhere.

"What you will see the farmers and the producer groups do is seek out more reliable trading partners — you don't want to be held hostage."

On Wednesday morning, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau called upon the RCMP to investigate the origins of a pork shipment to China that arrived with a fake Canadian export certificate.

With files from Tanya Fletcher

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