Pork exports to India tied to FTA breakthrough

Canadian producers hope free trade negotiations with India will result in that country allowing imports of Canadian pork products, according to an official with one of the agencies trying to open those doors.

“There is definitely demand for Canadian pork in India,” according to Jacques Pomerleau, president of Canada  Pork International.

Currently, no Canadian pork is shipped to India.

“We’ve been to India a couple of times to take a look at what would be the exact needs and requirements of that market,” he said. “Indian consumption of pork is very low, but at the same time, with the emerging middle class and growing tourism, we have significant requests coming from five-star hotels and retailers.”

Pomerleau added that there are some very good opportunities if an arrangement could be finalized between the two countries.

“The key will be the free trade negotiations, which will hopefully allow Canada to have more open access to India’s market,” Pomerleau said.

The free trade talks between Canada and India, however, are only in the very preliminary stages with only the potential of maybe moving Canadian pork being discussed, he said.

The discussions to date with the appropriate officials in India have been very slow to materialize, he said.

He said the government of India has made two key requests in order for Canadian pork to cross over their border.

“For religious purposes, India does not want Canadian pork to be fed with ruminant material,” Pomerleau said. “We can definitely accommodate that request.”

Canada, he said, has already developed such a protocol which is now in the hands of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for review and approval. Once the CFIA has given its approval, then the protocol must be submitted for approval by the government of India under the free trade negotiation process.

The second request is much more difficult and is definitely more confusing, Pomerleau said.

“India is insisting that Canadian pork does not contain any of the diseases that are already present in India,” he said. “We are hoping to have a commitment from the government of India on this issue, to sit down and seriously discuss this request for a certificate.”

Pomerleau said high-end hotel and restaurant chains in India did have an opportunity to import high-end pork products from Canada until recently under a special import process. That process has been terminated.

A joint study released in 2010 projected benefits of bilateral trade between the two countries would be worth between $6 billion and $15 billion.

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