Pork industry gets cash from feds as China dispute drags on
Canada's agriculture minister says funding was unrelated to trade spat but came at 'right time'
The federal government is giving $6 million to Canada Pork International (CPI) to promote exports abroad, as Canada remains enmeshed in a dispute with China.
Until recently, China was Canada's third-largest export market for pork. In June, China stopped accepting Canadian pork and beef shipments after Chinese customs inspectors said they found residue from a restricted feed additive in a batch of Canadian pork products.
The export certificate attached to the shipment was later found to be inauthentic and the RCMP were called in to investigate.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada's Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said Thursday's funding announcement was unrelated to recent trade tensions with China.
"But obviously one of the strategies when we face market disruption is to diversify our markets, so it obviously comes at the right moment," said Bibeau, who was in Guelph, Ont., for the announcement.
Bibeau said the funding will help the pork industry identify new market opportunities and build relationships with current and potential buyers, including Japan and Vietnam.
Finding new markets 'critical'
In a statement, the Canadian Pork Council agreed that developing trade in the Asia region is "critical" to the growth of the industry.
The council's director of government and corporate affairs, Gary Stordy, said many producers have had their confidence shaken by the sudden loss of a significant trading partner.
At the end of May 2019 — before the trade spat began — pork exports to China were up 58 per cent relative to the same time last year, he said.
"This is injecting an incredible amount of instability in our industry, mainly because it is an important market that we no longer have access to," Stordy said.
Bibeau said re-establishing the trading relationship is her "top priority."
"I put it on the fast track as much as I can. From the Chinese side we have ongoing conversations which gives me hope," she said.
CPI is the export promotion market development agency of the Canadian pork industry and is a joint initiative of the Canadian Meat Council and the Canadian Pork Council.
Last year, the Canadian pork industry exported $3.9 billion worth of pork to 89 countries, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.