Mexico to accept OTM Canadian beef this fall

(Photo courtesy Canada Beef Inc.)

Mexico will resume “fully normalized” trade in beef products with Canada starting Oct. 1, accepting imports of Canadian beef from cattle over 30 months old (OTMs).

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and Canadian Meat Council announced the move in separate releases Tuesday, following a joint statement by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The two leaders noted a shared commitment “to resolve trade issues using science-based decision-making” and said Mexico is now in the “final stages of its due diligence” on full normalization of beef trade with Canada.

Mexico, along with many other export markets, shut its ports to Canadian beef in May 2003, when Canada found its first domestic case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

Mexico re-opened to beef from cattle under 30 months old (UTMs) in August 2003, and to bone-in beef from UTMs in February 2006, but has since remained closed to Canadian beef from OTMs, as well as ground meat and some specialty meats and UTM offal.

The Oct. 1 effective date is “particularly important in terms of timing,” the CCA noted.

“The months of October and November are traditionally the time of year when Canadian beef farmers send most of their mature breeding cows to market,” CCA president Dan Darling, a beef producer at Castleton, Ont., about 50 km west of Belleville, said in the release.

Mexico’s decision marks the removal of one of Canada’s few remaining BSE-related trade restrictions in the world, which Darling expected will help instill confidence in Canadian beef producers to grow their herds.

“When our production increases to previous levels, I believe that Mexico could again import more than $250 million per year like it used to.”

The CMC, in its separate release Tuesday, estimated full access for Canadian beef and veal in the Mexican market will mean incremental sales of $10 million per year for Canada’s producers and packers.

Incremental value occurs “when a new export market, in this case Mexico, is prepared to pay more than current destinations for certain products,” the council said.

Pre-BSE, the CCA said, Canada was exporting between $270 million and $290 million of beef per year to Mexico, of which about 20 to 25 per cent was OTM.

Canada’s post-BSE beef exports to Mexico peaked in 2004 at 80,625 tonnes, worth $327.41 million. In 2015 Mexico took 19,418 tonnes of Canadian beef, worth $155.65 million, the CCA said.

That said, “averaging more than $130 million annually during the past five years, Mexico has ranked consistently as one of Canada’s top three export markets for beef and veal products,” CMC executive director Jim Laws noted.

Looking ahead, “business sustainability in the intensely competitive international marketplace for meat products requires access to those destinations that offer the highest value for each of the numerous components of a carcass,” the CMC said. “Mexico is one of those markets.”

Market development agency Canada Beef, in a separate release Tuesday, said Mexico’s decision “also sends an important message to other markets affirming the quality and safety of Canadian beef.”

Canadian/Mexican beef trade is also now open in both directions, Darling noted, as Canada approved new export certificates for certain Mexican packers in 2014. — Network

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