Canadian beef exports add at least $600 per head in value, compared to the domestic market, and numbers show that trade is accelerating.
Deals like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership with Pacific Rim countries push down tariffs and open doors to high-value markets like Japan.
“There has been triple the volume of beef that has been exported to Japan,” said Brady Stadnicki of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
Japan ranks second in export destinations for Canadian beef, after the United States.
Beef exports to Japan increased about 75 per cent in volume and 100 per cent in value as tariffs came down, he said at the Canada Beef Breeds Council meeting in April.
Why it matters: New trade agreements help beef exporters diversify their markets, which shields the industry from problems that can arise from overdependence on one market.
Other members of the CPTPP, including Vietnam, offer new opportunities as well. The Vietnamese tariff dropped from 20 per cent to 6.6 per cent in January. Next year there will be no tariffs.
Regular beef shipments have also begun under the European free trade agreement. In 2017 Canada exported 7.8 million tonnes to the EU and last year that doubled.
Supply of beef that meets European requirements is the biggest constraint right now and more eligible cattle are needed.
“We still know there is a lot of potential to be achieved in the trade agreement with the European Union,” said Stadnicki.
Canada needs more authorized Canadian Food Inspection Agency veterinarians to certify producers who are raising cattle for the growth-hormone-free market. About 80 veterinarians are certified, but most are in Western Canada.
The cattlemen’s association is also working with the CFIA to develop new protocols for mature cattle. Cows are not treated with beta agonists or hormones so their beef can be eligible for export.
An alternative proposal is to direct animals raised under the Verified Beef Production Plus quality assurance program into the EU market. It is a third-party audited system and perhaps cattle raised in that system could also produce eligible beef.
The greater uncertainty stems from the United Kingdom’s bid to separate from the European Union. Canada is interested in negotiating a separate deal with the United Kingdom once Brexit is complete.
While all the top markets are performing well, Canada is a small player, said Ron Glaser of Canada Beef, which promotes market development.
“Canada is a niche vendor in every market we are in,” he said.
The U.S. is the top export destination for Canadian beef, but overall Canada supplies only about three per cent of the U.S. beef supply.
“We continue to surf the waves as they come in terms of what are the opportunities before us politically in terms of market access,” he said.
The domestic market remains the best.
Beef consumption is up five per cent and last year Canadians ate more beef. Demand remains strong. Per capita consumption is 18.7 kilograms, up 4.5 per cent.
About 78 per cent of that beef comes from domestic sources and 22 per cent is imported.