Business

After 11-year ban, Canadian beef returns to Jamaican market

KARENA BENNETT Business reporter bennettk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 29, 2014    

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CANADIAN beef has been approved for import into Jamaica after being closed out of the market for the last eleven years.

In 2003, the North American country's beef export market experienced a rapid meltdown due to Bovine Spongiforms Encephalopathy (BSE), more commonly know as mad cow disease.

Representatives of the Canadian beef industry say that they have now fully satisfied all the traceability and the technical requirements for exporting products to Jamaica.

Ironically, patty makers in Jamaica can't export their product to the North American market; even if it is made with Canadian beef. The government there requires that the patties are made in Canada in order to supply that market.

"So on one hand they want to export into our country," said Brian Foster, chief operations officer of Tastee. "On the other hand, we can't export into their country even if we are using the same Canadian beef because they cannot guarantee the traceability of the product."

Jamaican patties destined for export markets currently use US beef, explained Dr Keith Amiel, vice-chairman of the Jamaica Diary Development Board (JDDB).

"If you are exporting patties, it requires that the beef has a traceability record," he told the Caribbean Business Report. US beef has a traceability record which is acceptable in most exports market.

"It's something we are struggling to put in place and we have things like tagging that is going to be taking place as we seek to identify cattle," added Amiel.

The decision to re-admit Canadian beef was made during ongoing discussions between government officials of the two countries. It is expected to ease a beef shortage currently being experienced in Jamaica.

"We used to slaughter 60,000 cows a year to satisfy Jamaican needs, now we are down to less than 20,000," said Amiel.

Canada Beef Inc estimates that beef exportation to Jamaica is worth approximately US$4.5 million ($500 million), or 1.5 million pounds of beef annually.

"Access to the Jamaican market aligns with the government's trade expansion goals in the Americas and is the result of its ongoing efforts to create new export opportunities for Canadian producers," said the company in a press release.

Some local cattle farmers seem to be indifferent about the move to add Canada as another source market for beef.

They figure that an opportunity to make the sector viable was missed when the government ignored recommendations to revive cattle rearing years ago.

"The policies that we have followed over the years has destroyed the path of growth upon which we had developed prior to Independence," said cattle farmer, Karl Wellington.

In the past, farmers had development programmes which included livestock field services and veterinary services which were discontinued in the 1980s. Wellington said that the escalating cost for importing inputs has also strained the operations of farmers over the years.

"So now we are unable to provide what is necessary to support the market, and I do not have an objection to a temporary licence for the importation of beef to fill the gap that exists," he added.

The JDDB is undertaking a redevelopment project of the dairy sector. But it will take eight to 12 years to satisfy the requirements of Jamaica, according to Amiel.

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