CCA sees potential for more beef sales to Europe

Canada could be selling more beef to Europe if it increased the number of veterinarians trained to approve cattle for shipment there or secured approval for using Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) to meet European requirements, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says.

Since the free trade agreement with Europe came into effect nearly two years ago, European beef shipments to Canada have risen from 1,719 tonnes in 2016 to 3,237 tonnes in 2018, and 2,641 tonnes for the first five months of 2019, the association said. Meanwhile, Canadian exports to the EU have grown from 340 tonnes in 2016 to 1,059 tonnes in 2018, with 653 tonnes reported in the first five months of 2019.

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The gap on value is much narrower than on volume — with the EU selling $18.9 million of beef to Canada in 2018 and Canada selling $15.5 million to the EU.

The CCA said it’s optimistic about the future sales and that sales representatives in Europe report that they have turned a corner from introducing EU meat buyers to the benefits of Canadian beef to now having it become a regular product in several restaurants and retail chains in the U.K., Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Sweden. They stressed that their main constraint to selling more Canadian beef in the EU is the limited supply of EU-eligible cattle in Canada.

However, Canada’s shipments have been hindered by EU rules restricting the use of growth promoters.

The solution lies with encouraging more Canadian veterinarians to be authorized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to oversee enrolment of cattle in the EU’s Growth Enhancing Product (GEP) Free Program or utilizing VBP+ auditors to oversee and certify young cattle as GEP free. The CFIA would have to translate that proposal into workable protocols that the EU officials would accept, the CCA said.

Doing so could create an additional market for 400,000 to 500,000 beef and 200,000 dairy cull cows which are available every year. But they currently can’t be certified as GEP free because veterinarians can’t certify they’ve overseen the animals during their whole lives.

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