A Chinese ban on Canadian meat could affect over a fifth of the pork that the Great White North exports there and represent a hit of over $373 million on trade between the two countries, Statistics Canada (StatCan) data suggests.
On Tuesday, the Chinese embassy issued a statement calling on Canada to suspend meat exports to the country after customs authorities found 188 examples of “counterfeit” veterinary health certificates.
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In response, the Chinese government “immediately suspended” the importing of pork products from “relevant enterprises” and asked that Canada suspend the issuance of certificates for meat exported there.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has since ceased issuing export certificates to China for pork and beef products, the Canadian Pork Council said Tuesday.
StatCan numbers – and the pork council – show that China has been a growing destination for Canadian pork exports.
In April 2019, Canadian pork exports to China in dollar volume totaled over $310 million, representing just over 22 per cent of total pork exports in that month.
That represented an increase of just under 80 per cent over April 2018, when dollar volume exports totaled $172 million.
Pork export volumes have been growing in kind.
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Canada sent about 96 million kilograms of pork to China in April 2019, an amount that grew to nearly 150 million kilograms a year later, for an increase of 53 per cent.
Statistics provided by the Canadian Pork Council show even stronger growth.
In 2018, Canada exported $514 million worth of pork to China, and sales this year have grown by 50 per cent.
“This increased demand was reflected in higher prices for hogs,” the council said in a news release.
Canadian pork production happens coast to coast, but production is largely concentrated in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.
The effect on producers is not yet clear — it “depends how long this temporary suspension lasts,” said Gary Stordy, director of government and corporate affairs with the pork council.
The suspension also comes at a time when China’s own pork industry is taking a huge hit from African swine fever, which has affected Asia and parts of Europe, he added.
“There’s incredible demand for pork in China,” Stordy said.
Now, he wonders whether the pork Canada was sending there can be absorbed by other markets.
“We may not receive the same price or premium in some of these other markets,” Stordy said.
“Frankly, there’s just some products that may not have a home, they’re unique to China’s interests.”
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Pig feet, for example, is one product that retains “quite an interest in Chinese cuisine,” he said.
“It’s not clear how that particular product will be absorbed into a global market,” Stordy added.
Pork, however, isn’t the only market that will feel a hit from this suspension.
China is also Canada’s fifth-biggest destination for beef and veal, having sent over $63 million worth of exports there in April 2019, according to StatCan.
That represented an increase of over 344 per cent over April 2018.
The beef industry hoped that China would remain a growth market for Canadian products into 2019, but now there’s concern that producers will miss out on some opportunity, said Brian Perillat, manager and senior analyst at Canfax, a division of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“China, they’re a huge population and with growing wealth in China, they’ve been looking for a lot more Canadian products, high-value products such a beef,” he said.
“It’s definitely going to take a hit there.”