B.C. cattle ranchers cheer access to Mexico

Reopening of the country’s third-largest export market is vital to the B.C. cattle industry

By Cam Fortems

Kamloops This Week

Reopening of the country’s third-largest export market is vital to the B.C. cattle industry should provide support for prices as early as this fall, an industry representative said Wednesday.

As part of a summit between Canada, the United States and Mexico, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week announced a full resumption of Canadian cattle exports to Mexico.

Mexico and many other markets closed borders to Canadian imports when bovine disease BSE (Bovine spongiform encephalopathy) was discovered in herds in this country in 2003.

Borders have been gradually reopened since.

While Mexico removed its ban on animals younger than 30 months, the prohibition on older animals has persisted.

Kevin Boon, general manager of B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, said the age restriction meant B.C. and Canadian ranchers were losing millions of dollars in export markets.

Those animals 30 months and older are typically for the hamburger market, including dairy cattle and beef cows deemed below quality for continued breeding.

“With [addition of] Mexico, we’re pretty much everywhere,” Boon said of open borders to Canadian beef.

“We’re not open to China . . . We anticipate that to come fairly quick.”

Boon said reopening of the market comes amid some weakness in pricing. Tracking the decline in oil, beef prices received by ranchers early in the season have fallen by one-third from what were record levels in 2015.

The reopening of the border with Mexico on Oct. 1 coincides with the majority of cattle in the Interior going to market.

“It’s very good timing,” Boon said.

The association’s general manager said the full opening with Mexico sends a message to the few markets that are not open.

He also noted it’s a testament to efforts by the industry and Canadian Food Inspection Agency to aggressively investigate disease and allow traceability from the farm to the processor and retailer in case of discoveries.