“We expected that when barbecue season started up that’s when we’d make our money,” Mr Hulshof said. At the end of June China said it would no longer accept Canadian pork or beef, citing the discovery of ractopamine in a shipment of pork. The feed additive is restricted in China but not North America. However, Canada’s pork industry has almost completely eliminated its use.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency determined the export certificate for the shipment was fabricated. “This certificate, as well as pork products which accompanied the certificate, are of unknown origin and not related to the Canadian food inspection system,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s agriculture minister, in a statement. She said Canada was in talks with Chinese officials “to resume trade of our meat products to China as soon as possible”. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the country’s national police force, is investigating.
China has not cited any problems with Canadian beef but nevertheless banned imports. The move is another blow to Canada’s agriculture sector, coming on the heels of China’s ban on imports of canola, soy and peas. Those measures are widely seen as retaliation for Ms Meng’s detention in Vancouver on a US arrest warrant to face charges of bank and wire fraud in an indictment that alleges that Huawei conducted business in Iran in contravention of US sanctions. At the time China warned Canada it would pay “a heavy price”.
“This is a big deal, particularly for the pork industry,” said Mike von Massow, an economist at the University of Guelph. “When you lose a market as important as China, you end up with pork that has nowhere to go. It is still too early to know how much the import restrictions will cost the industry, as the most recent statistics predate the ban. However, since China is the third-largest destination for Canadian pork exports and the fifth-largest for Canadian beef the damage could be significant.
Before the ban, exports to China were booming. In the first five months of this year Canada shipped $420m worth of pork, almost double the same period in 2018. Meanwhile, beef shipments jumped 300 per cent to $82m. On Wednesday the federal government announced $8.3m in aid for the beef industry, with two-thirds earmarked for international marketing efforts.
Despite the political overtones to the ban, Canadians officials are zeroing in on China’s specific allegations about food safety and fraudulent certificates. “We’ve sent them our plan for how to fix what’s going on. When it comes to pork that strategy may work, Mr von Massow said. The company said it did not use ractopamine in its pig operations.
Ms Meng’s extradition hearing is set for next year. If China’s blockade of Canadian farm products lasts that long, it will have serious implications. “It becomes a question of what we can’t sell in the future because the relationships and supply chains don’t get built,” Mr von Massow said. The dispute, along with China’s prolonged detention of two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, is emerging as an issue in the federal election in October.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being weak in his response to Beijing. Mr Scheer said Canada should consider retaliatory tariffs on some of the $75bn in Chinese goods imported by Canada. Mr Scheer also demanded Mr Trudeau scrap Canada’s $256m commitment to Beijing’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Meanwhile, there is a guessing game about what products China may go after next.
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