New pork bans ripped as opportunistic

(Resource News International) — The placing of restrictions on Canadian pork products by numerous countries because of an outbreak of swine flu on a small Alberta hog operation was deemed totally unnecessary and was viewed more as opportunistic.

“There is no threat to the safety of food in Canada,” said Neil
Ketilson, general manager of SaskPork, reiterating the statement issued by
the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the weekend.

Martin Rice, executive director with the Canadian Pork
Council also said there was absolutely no reason for any

country to impose bans or restrictions on Canadian hogs or
pork products.

It’s believed the Alberta case is the first time anywhere
in the world the new H1N1 influenza A virus has been found in
pigs.

The pigs most likely contracted the virus from a Canadian
who had returned from Mexico in mid-April and had exhibited
flu-like symptoms, said the CFIA. The individual, who is a
carpenter, was working on a barn at the hog operation and had
not been in direct contact with the pigs. The individual has
also recovered and all of the pigs are recovering or have
recovered, said the CFIA.

“The OIE (World Organization for Animal Health), along
with the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a very short and
crisp statement on the weekend saying there is no reason to
restrict meat, and that this is not a food safety issue,” Rice
said.

“Outside sound science”

The Phillippines, Ukraine, Honduras, El Salvador and
Korea had already imposed restrictions on Canadian pork

products before the confirmation of swine flu on the Alberta
farm on Saturday, Rice said.

“Korea did not ban Canadian pork, but had initiated a
testing program that up until Saturday had been random,” Rice
said. Korean officials were taking four per cent of Canada’s pork
imports and putting them through tests, he said, and that level of testing
was bumped up to 100 per cent of Canada’s pork imports on Saturday.

Rice said that on Saturday, China put a ban on all pork
product imports from just Alberta, not the rest of Canada.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, speaking Monday during question period in the House of Commons, said China was “operating outside of sound science” with its ban on Alberta pork.

“We’re looking for clarification as to why they have gone as far as they have,” Ritz said, and “should they continue on, of course, there’s (the possibility of a) WTO challenge, which we would not hesitate to enact.” 

Russia, meanwhile, added Alberta to the three other provinces that are not allowed to ship pork due to human cases of H1N1, including Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Ontario. Russia has also banned pork shipments from several U.S. states and from Mexico.

Any Canadian province that discovers the human H1N1
virus will be added to the list, Rice said.

CBC reported Monday that Prince Edward Island has now confirmed its first two human cases, in adult women. One had recently visited Mexico; the other was in close contact with a relative who had, CBC quoted officials as saying.

Rice confirmed that the U.S. had also been planning on imposing
restrictions on live hog imports from Canada because of the
swine flu incident in Alberta.

But through comprehensive
weekend discussions between government and industry groups on
both sides of the border, the U.S. government said it would not restrict
movement, based on the OIE’s science.

Flu weighs on prices

The news of the outbreak of the H1N1 virus in Mexico and
the spread of the virus among humans in several U.S. states
definitely impacted the price of hogs in North America, said Tyler
Fulton, director of risk management at Manitoba Pork
Marketing.

“We are definitely seeing some further price pressure on
cash and forward markets, involving hog futures because of
this news,” Fulton said.

As for the impact on the local Manitoba hog market, Fulton
said it is more of a “wait and see” situation.

Fulton cautioned, however, that the situation could change
significantly if there are any actions taken by Canada’s
largest trading partners, including the U.S. and Japan.

Ketilson agreed that at the moment there has been little
impact other than on price for hog producers in Saskatchewan.

The movement of hogs between provinces has not been
curtailed, although all producers were on a heightened level of
alert, he said.

Ketilson agreed that the only real impact on producers has
been prices.

“The price for hogs has gone from $140 per hundredweight
to $125, based on the outbreak of H1N1 in Mexico,” Ketilson
said, noting that this was a fairly significant price break on
top of already poor values.

A lot of the price drop, he said, was linked to misinformation being provided to consumers by the media.

“The consumers have been confused by the misinformation
and in turn are confused about whether they should or should
not be buying pork regardless of the product coming from
Canada or the U.S.,” Ketilson said.

He also acknowledged that the development on the Alberta
farm on Saturday did create some uncertainty for producers who
had trucks arriving Monday morning to ship weanlings into the
U.S. from Saskatchewan.

(With files by AGCanada.com staff)

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