Alberta beef producers concerned as more countries restrict Canadian beef imports due to BSE

WATCH ABOVE: There is growing concern from cattle producers after China temporarily closed its borders to Alberta beef. Eric Szeto reports.

EDMONTON — Word that China has joined a growing list of countries to impose temporary trade restrictions on beef imports from Canada has caused concern among some Alberta beef producers.

“I am very concerned. I hate to see it,” said Dave Durie of Duralta Farms east of Vegreville. “We finally got to where we are making a profit and people are so up and up about this deal.

“The cattle industry, you feel good about coming to a sale now and spending a dollar and everybody wants to spend a dollar. But it makes you nervous.”

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Taiwan, Peru, Belarus and South Korea have already imposed restrictions on importing beef from Canada after two cows born on the same Alberta farm were found to have mad cow disease.

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READ MORE: Two cows with BSE born on same Alberta farm, says CFIA

Alberta exports close to $1.4 billion worth of beef each year. While China is not considered a major trading partner, it still generates about $40 million a year. The U.S., Hong Kong and Mexico are the biggest purchasers of Canadian beef.

“It doesn’t matter who joins the list, we wouldn’t be happy about it,” said Verly Olson, Alberta’s minister of agriculture and rural development. “We are very fortunate at this point that our major trading partners are still solidly with us.”

“It is concerning,” said Dave Solverson, president of the Canadian Cattle Association. “I’m quite confident, though, we will get through this quite quickly and when the CFIA completes their investigation things will go back to normal.”

A case of BSE in 2003 at an Alberta farm devastated Canada’s beef industry as 40 countries closed their borders to Canadian cattle and beef products. And despite tighter regulations, more cattle testing and stricter feed protocols, the industry hasn’t fully recovered.

At this point it’s not known when the temporary restrictions will be lifted or if more countries will follow suit.

With files from Eric Szeto Global News, The Canadian Press.

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