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Jamaica's beef with Canada continues

10-y-o ban on imports still in place

BY ARLENE MARTIN-WILKINS Associate Editor - News martina@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 26, 2013    

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THERE appears to be no resolution on the horizon to a 10-year-old ban on the importation of beef and beef products from Canada, with the Jamaican Government disclosing that the risk assessment process is yet to be completed.

Jamaica imposed the ban in May 2003 in the immediate aftermath of news of the presence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) — the medical name for mad cow disease — in a single cow on a Canadian farm. At the time, Jamaica was only importing a small amount of beef from the North American country.

"The importation of animal products into Jamaica is subject to risk assessment. Jamaica's attempts to complete the risk assessment process relating to Canadian beef — by way of visiting and reviewing the disease surveillance procedure, which is conducted in Canada to safeguard humans against the variant of mad cow disease, known as the Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease — have not yet been satisfied," an official at Jamaica's Ministry of Agriculture told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

Variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease, according to the World Health Organisation, is a rare and fatal human neurodegenerative condition. It causes dementia and eventual death.

But Canada is declaring that Jamaica stands alone in maintaining the ban, and not recognising the technologies developed to fight BSE, as Canada finds ready markets for its beef in nearly 60 other countries annually.

At a breakfast meeting yesterday, Canadian High Commissioner Robert Ready told senior journalists that the restriction continues to be an "issue" for Canada.

"...Frankly, from our perspective, the restriction on importation from the Jamaican side should have probably been lifted some time ago, but we continue to work on that," he said, referring to the ongoing dialogue between the two countries.

He, however, said the hiccup will not affect Jamaica-Canada relations, brushing it off as merely an irritant in the "very diverse, deep and long" relationship the two country share.

"There's no way this will affect us," he declared.

At the end of 2012, bilateral trade between the two countries stood at Cdn$589.6 million — Cdn$237.6 million for merchandise trade and Cdn$352 million for services.

Of the merchandise figure, Jamaica paid Cdn$135.8 million for Canadian cereals, pharmaceutical products, fish, paper, board, plastics, and other merchandise. Canada paid the remaining Cdn$101.8 million in chemical, rum and food products from Jamaica.

In terms of the services trade, exports from Jamaica accounted for just over 64 per cent, or Cdn$226 million, of the overall figure.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Ready praised Jamaica for its move towards self-sufficiency with the 'eat what you grow campaign' — which encourages citizens to eat locally grown foods — but cautioned against such a campaign leading to protectionism.

"...I guess, as a trade person, I worry that sometimes those drives towards self-sufficiency, in any country, can ultimately (build into) forms of protectionism, which may come at the expense of foreign suppliers," he said.

"... There are international trade commitments around access to markets, and we would certainly encourage the Jamaican Government to remember those as they move towards self-sufficiency. We are all for competition in markets, but would hate to see barriers [to competition]," he added.

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