Canada's western provinces look to promote beef in China

08:21, October 09, 2010      

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Canadian beef could soon be a staple of the Chinese diet if a delegation from the country's three westernmost provinces gets it way.

Starting Sunday, a trade mission from the New West Partnership, a group representing the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan, begins a four-day China trip covering Beijing and Shanghai to promote its beef industry.

The mission, which includes Steve Thomson, the B.C. Minister of Agricultural and Lands, and Jack Hayden, the Alberta Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, is seeking to raise awareness of the Western Canada beef market after China formally lifted a long-standing ban on Canadian boneless beef derived from cattle under 30 months in July.

With the global outbreak of BSE, or mad-cow disease, Canadian beef exports to China had been closed since 2003.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua Friday at the Vancouver airport prior to his flight to Beijing, Thomson said a lot of work had been done by federal Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz in negotiating to reopen the China market to Canadian beef exports and his trip was about "establishing that level of trade."

Canada has around 90,000 cattle farms with about five million beef cattle. Almost half the production is dedicated to the international market. B.C., and predominantly Alberta and Saskatchewan, account for about 74 percent of the country's beef production, according to Statistics Canada.

"We have the highest quality food safe systems in our beef industries, our cattle industry are leading environmental stewards, there's been tremendous reception to it to the initial work that' s been done," said Thomson, who had added there had been a "very positive response" from China.

"A growing middle class in China is looking for protein in the diets and beef is a great opportunity for that. So we think there are some real opportunities for our industry."

Another advantage of the China market is it likes all cuts of beef, according to Thomson. With America being Canada's largest export market, the re-opening of the China market could help in reducing the country's reliance on the U.S. market.

"So this is an important market (China) for us and part of our efforts in diversifying our market."

While in China, Thomson and Hayden will meet with the Minister of Agriculture, the Chinese Meat Association, importers, trade and embassy officials. Following three days in the capital, they will travel to Shanghai for a day at the World Expo to showcase beef products, as well as seafood, aquaculture, wine, cherries and blueberries, at the China, Canada and Guangdong pavilions.

"We've had the (Chinese) scientific delegation over here (in British Columbia) looking at our cherry industry and assessing production, horticulture practices and food safety practices and we think there is great opportunities for both of those sectors in our agri-food economy here in British Columbia," Thomson said.

The New West Partnership was formed in April with the three provinces coming together to form an economic unit representing nine million people and a combined GDP of more than 550 billion Canadian dollars. The partnership has removed barriers to trade, increased investment and labor mobility, and is seeking to attract top talent and capitalize on their combined buying power.

Last year, the three provinces combined for 19.8 billion Canadian dollars in exports to Asia, a 41 percent increase from 2000. The figure included 6.6 billion Canadian dollars in total exports to China.

"There's strength in the collective work of the three provinces," Thomson said. "The agricultural and agri-food of the three provinces represent close to 50 per cent of the agricultural industry in Canada. China is our second largest bilateral trading partner and third largest market for our exports." "Working collectively is a good opportunity, particularly from the beef market. It is a Canadian market and I look it as we raise that export potential, rising tides lifts all boats and that is where the benefit is to our industry,"he said.

Source: Xinhua


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