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Canadian meat producers don’t need CETA, aren’t filling existing export quotas: NFU

Jan Slomp, NFU Alberta

Jan Slomp, NFU Alberta

Canadian beef exporters are using less than half of their tariff-free quota access to the European market and pork exporters come nowhere close to meeting their allowances, says the National Farmers Union this week. The data completely undermines the Harper government’s — and the meat sector — case for CETA, which appears to hinge on increased meat quotas for Canadian producers, according to recent reports.

“Canadian exports of hormone-free beef in 2011 totalled only 9,000 tonnes, despite a tariff-free quota of 23,200 tonnes,” explains the NFU. “Ractopamine-free pork exports are allowed under several tariff regimes which together allow us to export just over 80,000 tonnes annually. In 2011, Canada exported no ractopamine-free pork to the EU, and just 5,000 tonnes in 2010.”

“The EU has already opened the door but Canadian exporters are not walking through it,” says Jan Slomp, NFU Region 7 (Alberta) Coordinator. Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator Ann Slater adds that, “Our government is being disingenuous in proclaiming the benefits of CETA to farmers and suggesting that it is going to the wall to get an agreement. The information circulating unchallenged in the mainstream press amounts to nothing but wishful thinking.”

The Canadian Pork Council, on the other hand, says the industry is “seriously constrained from access into the European Union due to such constraints as tariffs, tariff rate quotas, import permits and licensing requirements.” The association argues that “Equivalency in access conditions for pork trade between Canada and the European Union is one of the most promising opportunities to increase returns and to provide growth for hog producers and value-chain partners, including grain growers, pork processors and the many Canadian companies involved in the meat export trade.”

As the NFU points out, European negotiators will almost certainly not use CETA to water down their precautionary food policies, including bans on many genetically modified foods and meats containing hormones or antibiotics. CETA can only increase quota for meats that are certified for European consumption (i.e. the good stuff), and then only if the deal can satisfy competing Irish and French meat producers.

In February, Reuters reported that meat producers (beef and pork) “will not reveal how much beef they would like to export, saying only that ‘it will be big’,” but adding, “One industry source this week told Reuters ‘the Europeans can’t possibly give the amount of beef the Canadians are asking for.'”

“It appears to us that the federal government is holding out false hope to farmers,” Slater says. “They’re using access to beef and pork markets in the EU as a smokescreen to cover up for selling out Canadian farmers, should CETA be completed.”

CETA negotiations continue this week in Brussels and there are rumours the Harper government would like to conclude them this month, possibly before the 2013 budget is tabled.

The CBC reports today that agriculture is one of six remaining stumbling blocks in the negotiations, as well as financial services, intellectual property rights on pharmaceuticals, public procurement, European requests to stop screening large foreign takeovers of Canadian companies, and how much Canadian content a Canadian automobile needs to contain in order to get tariff-free access to Europe.

For more information on the NFU’s position on CETA and how it will affect family farmers, click here.

To tell Harper to Walk Away From CETA today, click here.