Canadian, and Algoma, producers have reason to celebrate Mexico fully reopening its market to Canadian beef
ALGOMA - Mexico’s decision to fully reopen its market to Canadian beef will serve up Grade A benefits to producers across the country, including those in Algoma, says the Canadian Federation of Agriculture's president.
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Ron Bonnett, a Bruce Mines beef farmer, said Tuesday he wasn't surprised by the decision, which will finally normalize the Canada-Mexico beef trade by lifting restrictions on imports that have been in place since a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in an Alberta cow in May 2003.
Meetings earlier this year with top Canadian and Mexican officials hinted change was in the air, he added.
"I knew a lot of discussion had been in the works," said Bonnett, also current president of Beef Improvement Ontario and planning committee chair for Ontario’s Agricultural Management Institute. "I think normalizing some of those things made sense."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement Tuesday alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, in Ottawa for bilateral meetings and Wednesday’s North American leaders’ summit.
The restriction on beef imports will be lifted Oct. 1.
While Mexico resumed accepting beef from cattle under 30 months old later in 2003, it has maintained a ban on beef from older animals and some offal for more than a decade.
"It took away a market for older Canadian animals," Bonnett said. "Almost every other country in the world lifted the ban after we demonstrated that we had BSE under control."
"So it is going to, I think, assist in helping raise the price on those older cattle."
Algoma farmers will be among those to benefit when they sell off older animals that are "no longer productive."
"They should get a better price for that if that market redevelops," Bonnett said. "And you have to remember, the beef industry includes the dairy side, as well. So dairy farmers and beef farmers will tend to benefit on this. It puts competition into the marketplace again. I think it's a good sign."
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs 2011 figures indicate 49 beef cattle ranching and farming operations in Algoma, and eight regional dairy cattle and milk production outfits.
"There is quite a bit of activity in the beef sector in Northern Ontario, generally," Bonnett said. "I know now a number of Mennonite families are feeding beef cattle, as well. So, I think there is some opportunity there."
Some Algoma food producers offer "finished animals" directly for the local market, while others provide animals for southern Ontario feed lots.
Meat for export would be either older dairy or beef animals, Bonnett said.
"There's no distinction," he added. "Beef is beef, whether it comes from a dairy animal or a beef animal."
Bonnett said 99% of his product goes into southern Ontario feed lots.
"We don't finish it ourselves," he added. "That's just the business model we use."
Trudeau also announced Monday the lifting of a contentious visa requirement for Mexican travellers, starting Dec.1.
Bonnett said this move also has agricultural ramifications, as the policy "created problems," especially for southwestern Ontario farmers who had hired Mexican workers to help harvest fruits and vegetables.
"It was just another technical hurdle that sort of put barriers in place, so it's good to see that they've basically announced that they're going to have those addressed," Bonnett said. "I think it's good news."
SOURCE Jeffrey Ougler, Sault Star
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