April was a busy month with provincial member meetings to attend and address and a repeat visit with Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in Ottawa. We are pleased that the minister is receptive to hearing our views on matters of importance to Canada’s beef producers. In March the minister announced new funding of up to $31 million to increase the number of detector dogs at Canadian airports to help prevent illegally imported meat products from entering Canada. The funding, part of Budget 2019, will safeguard Canada against African swine fever and help address the ongoing risk of highly contagious diseases like foot-and-mouth disease entering Canada.
Federal Budget 2019 contained several points of interest for the Canadian beef industry. Key is the announcement of a three-year immigration pilot to bring in full-time, non-seasonal agricultural workers that will include a pathway to permanent residency. This development aligns with industry’s position on augmenting the Canadian agriculture workforce with foreign workers that have a pathway to permanent residency. We encourage the government to implement this pilot at the earliest opportunity. Agriculture and the beef sector need a reliable workforce if we are going to take advantage of the opportunities that lay before us.
Imports of Canadian beef to Japan have gained in volume and value since the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) was implemented on December 30, 2018. On April 1, 2019, the second round of tariff cuts came into effect, reducing tariffs to 26.6 per cent on both Canadian fresh and frozen beef, with further cuts to continue over the next several years. The initial tariff cut on December 30 lowered the Japanese beef tariff of 38.5 per cent to 27.5 per cent on Canadian fresh beef and to 26.9 per cent on frozen beef. Tariffs were also reduced for a range of offal products popular in Japan.
The CCA is closely monitoring the uptake of Canadian beef in Japan under the CPTPP. With several factors at play, it will be at least a year before a clear trend can be established. Factors to watch include the ups and downs of seasonality and the buying behaviour of Japanese importers post-CPTPP, no longer held back by concerns over triggering a safeguard which would have increased the tariff to 50 per cent. Also, in late February, Japanese officials were in the advanced steps of recommending eliminating the requirement that imported beef be from cattle under 30 months of age. The CCA anticipates that this development could be approved by mid-2019 thus expanding the ability to export beef to Japan.
The initial Japanese import statistics for January 2019 indicated positive volume gains in imports of Canadian beef and offal. The volume for January 2019 was 3,545 mt, more than triple the volume of December 2018, and nearly that again compared with January 2018. The January 2019 volume is also higher (57.6 per cent) than the average per month shipment in 2018.
In February 2019, Japanese import statistics show 2,455 mt of Canadian beef and offal went to Japan. With most of Canada’s beef exports to Japan in the frozen category, importers can choose when the product will arrive. The difference in the Japanese data between January and February indicates importers held back product until the CPTPP came into force to get the lower tariffs, thus having an impact on the figures for December 2018 and January 2019.
The CCA will continue to monitor the volumes over the next several months for indications of longer-term trends.
Canadian beef exports to the EU are also growing in volume and value under the 2017 Canada — EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA). CCA is working with the Government of Canada and the Canadian Meat Council to resolve some hoops that remain on the technical side to achieve meaningful Canadian beef access to the EU. Research and advocacy efforts are also underway toward achieving formal recognition by the EU of Canada’s meat safety protocols.
In April, CCA hosted a delegation of government officials from France’s National Assembly to showcase Canadian beef production practices and operations involved in raising beef for export to the EU. In Canada, producers and feedlot operators must meet specific production requirements for cattle used to produce beef for export to the EU. These components are part of the Canadian Program for Certifying Freedom from Growth Enhancing Products (GEPs) for Export of Beef to the EU.
The tour included stops in Alberta at cow-calf and feedlot operations, both longstanding participants in Canada’s GEP protocol. As cattle production practices differ between France and Canada, this was an opportunity to share perspectives and information to demonstrate producers use management practices that protect the health of the animal and the environment which support maintenance of a sustainable agro-ecosystem.
Finally, with the upcoming federal election fast approaching, the CCA soon will be releasing a priority document to all parties and candidates along with a questionnaire. As in years past, we will post their responses to our questions on the CCA website. We encourage producers to get to know their MPs and engage with them to ensure they understand the importance of our issues in Ottawa.