Toronto

Ontario agriculture minister pleased that pork and beef exports to China resuming

Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman says he is "very pleased" that a Chinese ban on the import of Canadian pork and beef products is being lifted.

Ban was of 'great concern' to Ontario producers, Ernie Hardeman says

Some pigs in an inside pen. Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman says China's decision to lift its ban on Canadian pork and beef products is 'great news' for farmers. (CBC)

Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman says he is "very pleased" that a Chinese ban on the import of Canadian pork and beef products is being lifted.

"It's great news for the farmers who have been having trouble marketing their pork and beef the last number of weeks because of that shutdown," Hardeman told CBC Toronto on Tuesday.

"So obviously, I'm very pleased that the federal government has been able to negotiate some sense into the importing party and that we will be able to ship the product here again."

Hardeman said pork and beef products were being stockpiled in storage areas in Ontario after the ban went into effect, but now some of those products can be shipped.

"It will be exported now that the borders have opened up," he said.

The minister said the ban had the potential to hurt meat processors as well as farmers.

"It was of great concern to all of the producers of what would happen if it didn't open up soon. The space would be used up and we would be in a real dilemma," he said.

Hardeman thanked the federal government for its leadership on the issue. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauded the development Tuesday, calling it "good news" for producers.

China's decision to ban Canadian pork and beef products happened in the midst of a broader diplomatic feud between the two countries and it hit farmers hard.

China suspended the meat imports in June after reporting that its customs inspectors detected residue from a restricted feed additive in a batch of Canadian pork products.

A subsequent investigation found forged veterinary health certificates attached to the shipment, which led to an RCMP investigation.

Ban estimated to cost Canada nearly $100M 

In September, the Canadian Meat Council added up the financial cost of the suspension to Canadian industry, pegging it at close to $100 million.

A Sussex mixed cow sticks its nose out. The Canadian Meat Council added up the financial cost of the suspension to Canadian industry, pegging it at close to $100 million. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

On Tuesday, Hardeman said Ontario is trying to expand the market for pork and beef products beyond China.

"Our population is not eating that much more so we do have to find a larger market for our products," he said.

Mission to Japan, South Korea drew attention to sector

In October, an Ontario trade mission to Japan and South Korea in October was successful in generating interest in the the province's pork and beef sectors, he said.

During the mission, the Ontario government said in a news release that it organized more than 40 events and meetings with more than 100 businesses.

Delegates from the industry met with business leaders, government representatives, importers and retailers.

The government said in the release that the trade mission generated positive media coverage in Japan and South Korea, raising the profile of Ontario pork and beef products.

About 55,000 jobs depend on Ontario's hog industry while there are about 63,000 jobs in the province's cattle industry, according to the government.

China continues to restrict the amount of soybeans and canola seeds it buys from Canada but Hardeman said the government continues to seek a resolution.

With files from Lisa Xing, Canadian Press