China block on meat imports 'disheartening' for Sask. beef producers

It’s been a hard couple months for beef producers and news of China halting meat imports only adds to the stress, says the CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association.

News bleak following stress of very dry spring, says CEO of Sask. Cattlemen's Association

The Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association is expressing hope that normal trade resumes between Canada and China, saying that China represents a big and growing opportunity to market meat. (William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

It's been a hard couple months for beef producers and news of China halting meat imports only adds to the stress, says the CEO of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen's Association.

"It was a pretty awful spring after a couple of really dry years," said Ryder Lee, noting that much needed and welcome rain fell over Saskatchewan on the weekend. 

"Everybody is a little less tense this week than they were a little while ago, but then you throw something like this kind of news in there, and it's disheartening," he said.

News that China wants to stop all meat imports from Canada comes after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) notified the country it had discovered a number of inauthentic veterinary health certificates in some meat products bound for China, according to a government official.

China already has halted imports from three Canadian pork producers over food safety issues — two in May and another earlier this month — as trade tensions between the two countries have escalated.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association said it learned yesterday no new Canadian meat export certificates for China will be issued, due to the discovery of a falsified Canadian pork export certificate. The suspension is supposed to be temporary, it said. 

It also stated it's unclear why beef products have been included in this suspension and that the Canadian government is seeking clarification on this matter.

While some have speculated about the source of tensions between Canada and China, including the two countries' fraying relationship, Lee said he's not interested in these side issues. 

"Why things are happening is speculating in a fun water-cooler conversation. We're focused on what needs to be done to get through it so we can get back to normal trade flows."

China represents Canada's fifth biggest export market and accounts for one per cent of its beef production, and while that may not seem like a big market, it's only a fraction of what the country's consumption could be in the future, said Lee. 

"Everybody talks about the growing opportunity that is China. We want to be in the door."

Minister says Canada will 'defend our industry'

The Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food has said the CFIA has taken steps to address the issue, and "is continuing to work closely with industry partners and Chinese officials." 

Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who represents Regina-Wascana, said there is still an ongoing investigation into what transpired and the flow of events that led to complaints from Chinese authorities. 

Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who represents Regina-Wascana, says Canada will defend its agriculture industry, which he described as the cleanest and safest worldwide. (CBC News)

"We will continue on all fronts to work with our industry, and defend our industry," he said. "We know whether it's on the plant side or the animal side, Canadian agriculture is the best and the cleanest and the strongest and the safest in the world and we take anything that detracts from that reputation very seriously."


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