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Beef imports from Europe and U.K. on the decline

South American beef displaces European imports in Canada.
Trade data from Statistics Canada for the first seven months of 2023, shows that Canada exported $16.3 million worth of beef to the EU. That’s up from $12.2 million in the same period in 2022.

WESTERN PRODUCER — Canada still has a trade deficit in beef with Europe, but it is getting smaller.
Trade data from Statistics Canada for the first seven months of 2023 shows that Canada exported $16.3 million worth of beef to the EU. That’s up from $12.2 million in the same period in 2022.

Meanwhile, the EU exported $44 million worth of beef to Canada from January to July, which is down from $66.8 million in the first seven months of 2022.

Beef imports from the United Kingdom have also dropped:

  • From January to July 2022, beef imports from the U.K. were valued at $24 million
  • From January to July 2023, imports from the U.K. were $7.2 million, a decline of 70 percent
  • Beef exports from Canada to the U.K. were zero in the first seven months of 2023.

It’s possible that imports from Europe and Britain have been displaced by cheaper beef from South America.

“Imports from Brazil were up 506 percent in volume and up 483 percent in value to 4,090 tonnes and $26 million, respectively, while the average price went down 3.8 percent to $6.42 per kilogram,” said a trade report from Canada Beef, which looked at the first six months of 2023.

“Imports from the United Kingdom were down 76 percent in volume and down 74 percent in value … while the average price increased 6.7 percent to $7.76 per kg.”

Beef trade with the U.K. and Europe has become a highly contentious issue in Canada’s red meat industry.

In 2022, Canada’s trade deficit in pork and beef with Europe was $343 million.

For Britain, Canada exported no beef to the U.K. in 2022 while importing $33 million.

The trade data is a major irritant because Canada has a free trade deal with Europe. Red meat is supposed to flow freely between the trade partners, but the EU has imposed non-tariff trade barriers on Canadian beef and pork.

The frustrations reached a boiling point in July, when Canada and other nations welcomed Britain into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

At a signing ceremony in New Zealand, the U.K. became the 12th member of the trade pact.

In response, the Canadian Meat Council (CMA), the Canadian Cattle Association (CCA) and the Canadian Pork Council issued a joint statement “strongly opposing” Britain joining the trade agreement.

“The U.K. does not accept Canada’s food safety and animal health systems and measures, and those non-tariff barriers limit our access to the U.K. market,” the three groups said.

In simple terms, the trade deal means that red meat only flows in one direction — from Britain to Canada.

“We’re wide open for as much as they want to send here … but no (Canadian) beef (or pork) products would be going into the U.K.,” said Dan Darling, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance and a beef producer from Castleton, Ont.

“It’s a detriment to our producers.”

In September, Canada’s beef industry took action to prevent Britain from joining the CPTPP.

The CCA, CMA and the National Cattle Feeders’ Association launched a campaign called Say No To a Bad Deal. The goal is to pressure the government so that it won’t formally admit Britain into the CPTTP.

“Tell the federal government to say no to a bad trade deal and renegotiate the CPTPP with the United Kingdom,” says the website,

“Trade deals only make sense when they are fair to Canadians.”

While the battle over beef trade continues, data shows that Canada is actually selling some pork to Europe. From January to July, Canada exported nearly $5 million in pork to the EU. That’s up from $647,000 during the same period in 2022.

However, huge amounts of pork continue to flow into Canada from the EU. From January to July, Europe shipped $140 million in pork to Canada.

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