Costa Rica reopens ports to Canadian beef

A relatively small buyer in Central America is Canada’s latest win in efforts to reopen international borders and ports to Canadian beef.

Costa Rica, which shut the door on a quarter-million-dollar market for Canadian beef in 2003 following confirmation of Canada’s first domestic case of BSE, will now allow “full, unrestricted access” to Canadian beef and beef products, the government said Monday.

The value of Canada’s pre-BSE beef exports to Costa Rica in 2002 totalled $235,000, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association noted in its own release Monday.

That said, “this latest market opening will have a direct and immediate benefit for Canadian farmers,” Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in the government’s release, “and we’d like to thank the Costa Rican government for work in helping us get our safe, high-quality beef back to their marketplace.”

Costa Rica has had a bilateral free trade agreement in place with Canada since 2002, and the two countries are now in talks to expand that deal, the government said.

International Trade Minister Peter Van Loan noted in Monday’s release that he had met with officials in Costa Rica in August 2010 to resolve the beef issue.

Bilateral trade of ag products with Costa Rica was valued at $244 million as of November 2010, the government said, describing Monday’s announcement as being due to “a concentrated effort by governments to enhance trade between the two countries.”

According to CCA president Travis Toews, this agreement gives Canadian beef producers and processors a total of 43 countries — 16 plus the 27 members of the European Union — with no age restrictions on imports of the Canadian product.

Canadian beef sales across all markets in Central and South America peaked at 6,000 tonnes ($5.8 million), pre-BSE; according to the Canadian Beef Export Federation, over half of that was destined for Peru and almost 20 per cent for Colombia.

Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador have reopened to Canadian boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age (UTMs), while Colombia and Panama normalized beef trade in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Peru agreed in 2009 to allow limited amounts of boneless Canadian beef duty-free as part of its free trade deal with Canada.

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