Alberta beef boycott would have been ‘banning our own product’: B.C. Cattlemen

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‘It’s not in anyone’s interest to have dueling premiers’: Horgan
WATCH: 'It's not in anyone's interest to have dueling premiers': Horgan – Feb 7, 2018

B.C.’s beef sector is breathing a sigh of relief in the wake of B.C.’s decision not to retaliate against Alberta’s wine boycott.

On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley directed Alberta’s government wine importer to put a cork in any new B.C. wine acquisitions. The move was a reaction to B.C.’s proposal to restrict increases in bitumen flow to the West Coast.

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Notley’s move raised the spectre of an escalating trade war — one that raised alarm bells in B.C.’s own beef sector when Agriculture Minister Lana Popham seemed to suggest Alberta beef could be on the chopping block.

“We bring a lot of Alberta beef into this province and I would rather not go down that route and I don’t know where we are going to go but one thing I know is we are going to fight,” Popham said on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Horgan took pains to walk that suggestion back.

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“It happened to be, she was in the Okanagan when Premier Notley made her pronouncement on trade and she made a comment, but it is not the government’s intention to respond in any way to the provocation.”

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Banning our own beef

Horgan’s assurance that there would be no beef ban has the B.C. cattle sector breathing easier.

That’s because boycotting Alberta beef would have actually dealt a blow to B.C.’s own economy, according to the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.

“Inflicting a ban on Alberta beef product would actually be banning our own product,” said association general manager Kevin Boon.

B.C.’s beef sector employs about 8,700 people and adds about $600 million to B.C.’s economy, according to the association.

But most B.C. beef actually moves through Alberta before hitting local shelves.

“Here in British Columbia right now, we are not set up currently to feed and finish the number of cattle we produce to the end, and we don’t have a federally inspected packing facility,” Boon explained.

“So they have to be done in Alberta or elsewhere.”

According to the association, as much as 90 per cent of B.C. cattle are exported out of province, and while some goes to the U.S., the vast majority goes through Alberta.

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“It’s one of the things that is very sacred and they’re very proud of the beef they produce over there as well so it can be one of the things that typically would look like it’s an easy target,” Boon said.

“[But] once you get into the economics and you get into how we produce, and why it’s done that way, I know that that opinion would change.”

He said the industry made its concerns clear to Popham, and that they believe the province did the right thing by not escalating the conflict.

But while there will be no Victoria-led boycott, how consumers will react remains unclear.

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Alberta beef has already become a hot topic on social media — with many threatening to give it up, and others saying they’ll up their intake.

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