‘Mad cow’ having big impact

In November, Statistics Canada attached numbers to the impact of BSE (mad cow disease) on Canada’s beef exports and the news was not good.
Exports of beef from Canada—worth $4.1 billion in 2002—crashed to virtually zero this summer after one Alberta cow was discovered with BSE in May.
Canada used to be the world’s third-largest beef exporter with 15 percent of the market, behind the U.S. (16 percent) and Australia (23 percent). But that was pre-BSE. Countries slammed their borders shut to Canadian beef and live cattle after May 20.
The BSE ban left Canadian cattle markets in chaos. Animals could not be sold and prices collapsed. The U.S. ban was the most damaging since Canada exports about 90 percent of its beef products there.
Canada usually provides the U.S. with 55 percent of its beef imports and 80 per ent of its live bovine (dairy cattle, beef cattle, and bison) imports. The U.S. is the largest importer of beef, with 32 percent of world imports.
Americans also eat more beef and veal than anyone else in the world (44.6 kg per capita, compared to 31.9 kg for each Canadian).
Taken together, these factors create favorable conditions and a very important market for Canada’s beef exporters, StatsCan said.
Canada exported far more beef than it imported before the BSE ban. Canada’s beef trade surplus in 2002 was $3.2 billion.
But now, the situation is reversed. Volumes of beef coming into Canada rose above historical levels in June, 2003 before dropping in July and August.
Meanwhile, the beef supply in the U.S. is tight, retail prices have risen to record levels, and American cattlemen are profiting from Canadian producers’ misfortune.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported cattle prices increased 34 percent since July.
The USDA said Canada’s beef exports as of Aug. 31 were nearly 150,000 tons, compared with 263,290 tons for the same period in 2002.
Canada’s situation has improved somewhat since September when the U.S. re-opened its borders to boneless beef from animals under 30 months of age. Industry analysts say U.S. imports of Canadian beef are starting to approach pre-ban levels.
About a dozen countries have begun accepting Canadian boneless beef again. The U.S. also is working on a protocol that would re-admit Canadian live cattle younger than 30 months of age.
In early November, the Canadian Beef Export Federation said the Philippines will re-open its border to boneless and bone-in beef from cattle both younger and older than 30 months. It is the first country to admit all beef instead of being selective.
This sets an important precedent for regaining overseas beef markets.

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