Saskatoon

Sask. pork producers concerned about potential spike in Chinese inspections

A group that represents pork producers across Saskatchewan is concerned upcoming Chinese trade restrictions may seriously impact their businesses.

China says it will open all containers of Canadian pork to combat deadly disease

Saskatchewan pork producers are carefully watching import rules from China. (Marc-Antoine Lavoie/Radio-Canada)

A group that represents pork producers across Saskatchewan is concerned upcoming Chinese trade restrictions may seriously impact their businesses.

In a notice to the pork industry on Tuesday, Canada's Ministry of Agriculture said the embassy in Beijing had been told Chinese officials will open all containers of Canadian pork and pork products. In some cases, 100 per cent of the contents will be inspected.

"It's very unfortunate that they've taken this decision," said Casey Smit, chairman of Sask Pork. "The reason they're doing it is questionable."

China said it was ramping up inspection of Canadian pork to battle the spread of African swine fever, a deadly disease that is ravaging the country's swine herd.

However, there have been no cases of the disease ever reported in Canada, leading Smit to believe there are other factors at play.

"There's no question that it appears to be a diplomatic issue in terms of some of the other outstanding issues between China and Canada," he said. "It's sort of no different I think than what the canola situation is."

In March, China revoked the licence of two massive Canadian canola companies to sell seed to China — Richardson International and Viterra. China said it had found pests in the canola and halted all shipments.

The increasing trade tensions could be tied to the case of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of telecom company Huawei. Late last year, Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver after an extradition order was filed by the United States.

Some experts believe China is using the trade issues to pressure Canada to free Wanzhou.

In the near future, Smit is confident Canada's meat inspection system will continue to sort out any problems China may be concerned about.

"It's just frustrating," he said. "I think producers are smart enough to know that these trade actions aren't a direct reflection of how we raise pork but it's more of a reflection on international trade issues that crop up from time to time."

China is the third-largest market for Canadian pork producers, according to industry statistics. Saskatchewan produces 1.8 million market hogs every year, says Sask Pork.

With files from Gabrielle Proulx

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