June 4, 2019 3:11 pm
Updated: June 4, 2019 7:37 pm

China set to increase Canadian meat inspections, officials say in memo

Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou is due back in a Vancouver court this week. Her arrest late last year, at the request of the U.S., set off a crisis in Canada-China relations. And Canadian farmers appear to be caught in the crossfire. First, canola products were blocked by Chinese authorities. And last week, two major Canadian pork producers had their export permits suspended. Heather Yourex-West reports.

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China‘s customs agency plans to increase inspections of Canadian meat and meat product imports, the Canadian agriculture ministry said in a notice to industry seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

The ministry said it had been informed that the Chinese agency would open all containers of Canadian meat and meat products and in some cases 100 per cent of the contents will be inspected. Chinese officials said the move was linked to the risk of African swine fever and anti-smuggling measures, the ministry said.

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READ MORE: Survey shows decrease in canola production for 2019

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Canada’s minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, said the government was recently made aware of increased inspection on pork products, and is working with producers and industry to “underscore the importance of heightened quality assurance efforts” to ensure there are no trade disruptions due to “administrative errors.”

According to Bibeau, African Swine Fever has never been found in Canada.

“We stand by our system and our strong reputation as reliable suppliers of quality products worldwide,” she said.

According to Bibeau, the Ministry of International Trade Diversification is leading work to open new markets for the country’s agriculture products.

“With the CETA and CPTPP now in force, Canadian farmers and producers have preferential market access to an estimated 1.5 billion consumers in more than 50 countries,” she said.

This, Bibeau said, will help Canada meet its goal of $75B in agri-food exports by 2025.

“Farmers know we have their back and will continue to help them grow their businesses and support their communities with good middle class jobs.”

The move comes amid ongoing diplomatic tensions between Beijing and Ottawa, which are affecting Canadian food exports.

In March, China started blocking the shipments of canola-seed imports from two major Canadian companies. The move is believed to be linked to the diplomatic dispute sparked by the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s Meng Wanzhou in last December.

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China said the canola imports were halted due “hazardous organisms,” which Canadian government said there is no evidence of.

Earlier in May, China suspended imports from two Quebec-based pork producers over what they called incorrect “labelling.”

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has defended Canadian agricultural exports and the processes used to inspect them.

Last month she met with her Chinese counterpart to raise the issue of the inspections during the G20 Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting in Japan.

READ MORE: Canada’s agriculture minister meets briefly with Chinese counterpart about canola at G20

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has linked the decision to ban canola to China’s trade dispute with the U.S. and during a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last week, both leaders told reporters they were united against Chinese aggression.

The Conservatives though have for months argued the government should take a harder line with the Chinese.

“It’s what we’ve warned the government about for many months now that this crisis with them was going in the wrong direction,” said Erin O’Toole, the Conservative foreign affairs critic, in a scrum with reporters on Tuesday.

O’Toole said the Conservatives have called on the government to appoint a new ambassador to China or a special envoy to facilitate talks on the ongoing dispute, and to also yank back funding from the Asian Infrastructure Bank led by Beijing.

“Right now they see Justin Trudeau as weak,” he said. “They’re going to go sector by sector and we’ve not had the ability to project our position appropriately.”

With files from Global News.

© 2019 Reuters

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