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Handle Canada/U.S. meat trade with care: JBS VP

The U.S. vice-president for international sales with meat packing giant JBS warns the U.S. will have to carefully manage its NAFTA trading relationships on beef and pork.

Speaking in a weekly audio feature at the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s website, Dan Halstrom, who’s also a former USMEF chair, described the beef trade relationship between the U.S., Canada and Mexico as “still good, but (with) some potential challenges.”

Looming large among those, of course, is the U.S. government’s mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) legislation, Halstrom said.

“Both countries (Canada and Mexico) have been outspoken as to their displeasure with the COOL situation,” he said. “If we’re not able to go to Mexico, for example, the largest market for (U.S.) beef and pork, tonnage-wise, it would be a large negative impact on domestic prices, no doubt about it, on both beef and pork.

“So that’s the reason we have to manage it closely. We have to communicate with our trade partners and make sure that we are all the same page.”

That said, Halstrom added, there remains a significant demand for imported beef and pork in both Mexico and Canada, “and we just have to work closely and communicate with our trading partners so we don’t create a big situation.”

Looking ahead for the meat export sector, he said he sees other challenges ahead to be managed, such as the global credit situation. “Hopefully we’ve got the worst behind us” and given time, it will improve, said Halstrom, whose U.S. head office is based at Greeley, Col., about 80 km north of Denver.

But even given those economic factors, he said, “generally, the macro situation has not changed — a lot of the major importing countries do not have enough domestic-produced protein, so they’re going to be relying on imports to some extent.”

And, he said, “when it comes to grain-fed beef, as well as grain-fed pork, the U.S. still has quite the advantage.”

More specifically, he said, in terms of U.S. exports, “I think we’re looking at some of the mainstay countries — we’re looking at Japan, Mexico, Canada, Korea — some of these markets have been pretty consistent in the past and I think will continue to be very consistent.”

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