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As trade dispute with China continues, feds commit money to Canadian beef

Last Updated Jul 10, 2019 at 3:24 pm MDT

Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announces over $8 million in investments to support the Canadian beef industry, amid a trade dispute with China. Wednesday, July 10th, 2019. (PHOTO: Tom Ross - 660 NEWS)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — With the Calgary Stampede as the setting, the federal government announced financial support for the beef industry on Wednesday.

“I am proud to announce a federal investment of more than $8.3 million for six projects that will help your industry grow and prosper,” said Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau inside the Nutrien Event Centre.

The largest chunk of that money — $5.3 million — is specifically going towards growing beef sales in important international markets, while a trade spat continues with China.

Last month, China halted Canadian meat imports after they claimed they found nearly 200 forged veterinary certificates and detected trace amounts of a banned additive in beef.

China is Canada’s fifth-largest market for beef, which may not be a lot in total, but the market was growing ahead of this issue.

“Volume-wise, it’s just under three per cent of our exports, so from that point of view, it’s not huge. But what’s important about it is that it’s a growing market for us,” said Canada Beef President Michael Young. “It’s been building in momentum the last two years, and we’re looking at expanding that market in the future.”

Young added this is a very welcome announcement and they need the investment to grow their market share.

However, it’s not exactly clear how that money will be used right now, as Bibeau said that will largely be up to Canadian Beef and the Canadian Cattleman’s Association.

“To put in place a variety of measures to communicate with Canadians and to find the best tools to demonstrate the way they are taking care of the land, the way that they are taking care of the animals and how it is important for the growth and the vitality of our rural communities as well.”

It is also hoped this investment will put more measures in place to strengthen the export system for meat during this Chinese disruption.

Meanwhile, talks are continuing “around the clock” on how to restore the market for Canadian beef and other meats in China.

“I would say normal technical conversation, normal processes between two trading partners who are facing a real issued,” said Bibeau. “We have submitted a plan with short-term, medium-term, long-term measures to reassure our Chinese trading partners and we are hopeful they will reopen the market as soon as possible.”

While this may be causing some pain among producers, there is faith this process will work and soon things will return to normal.

“We’re very confident that once they understand all of the facts, they will see that everything is okay and that we’ll be able to move ahead,” said Young.

One of the top targets for Canadian beef through this initiative will be Japan, along with other regions in the Asia Pacific and Europe that were opened up through the signing of trade deals, such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

However, one thing not being discussed at this time is compensation for producers.

“I think it’s still premature to talk about it, but I understand that they are being hurt by this situation and this is why our top priority is to reopen the market,” said Bibeau.

Some of the other investments through the announcement include almost $800,000 to help the Canadian Beef Breeds Council grow markets for beef genetics, over $250,000 to help the National Cattle Feeders Association build public trust on welfare practices, and over $230,000 to help the Canadian Aberdeen Angus Association to improve animal welfare through genetics.

The minister added this announcement would have come anyway, even without a trade dispute, as they seek to improve the industry.

“We’ll always believe that market diversification is a strength.”