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Beef exporters take European trade with grain of salt

(Commodity News Service Canada) — An agreement recently announced between the Canadian government and the European Union (EU) that will allow duty-free access to Europe for some Canadian beef is encouraging news to Canadian beef exporters, but they said actual volumes will fall well short of that quota.

The 20,000 tonnes of duty-free quota granted is not solely for Canada. Christoph Weder of Prairie Heritage Beef at Rycroft, Alta. said the quota will be split between Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

The U.S. gained the same access as Canada in August 2009, and is expected to export of 15,000 tonnes of the quota across the Atlantic.

“If Canada can export up to 3,000 tonnes to Europe in one year, I think that would be a success story. But that will take a lot of hard work,” said Weder, who’s also a columnist for Canadian Cattlemen.

Canada hasn’t been able to ship to Europe for about two decades, and he said the long absence means it will take some hard work to rebuild Canadian demand.

“Considering Canada hasn’t been in Europe in the last 20 years selling beef, it’s going to take a lot of marketing to get back in there and companies that want to go after this market,” he said. “It’s going to take a while to get re-established there, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either.”

Cam Daniels, vice-president of the Canadian Beef Export Federation, said there are only two plants in Canada that are certified to ship to Europe

“The industry has to do a bit of restructuring to get enough facilities and interest to start shipping (to Europe),” Daniels said.

The reason for the number of plants is so small is because Europe has intense restrictions regarding the beef that they import.

“The three stipulations are that the cattle are fed a high energy ration at a certain level for a minimum of 100 days, that the cattle are guaranteed hormone free, and that they are checked by a federally employed grader,” Weder said.

Even though things could be a little bit slow, Daniels said it’s still good news for Canadian beef producers.

“Down the road, this is a good thing,” he said. “With this people will focus a little more and see the opportunities that are in the EU.”

The tonnage will jump from 20,000 to 40,000 in a year and a half, Weder said.

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