While Canadian beef sales now scales up in Japan due to the ban lift recently, China has continued to block beef shipments from Canadian processing plants ever since an ‘atypical’ case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – commonly known as mad cow disease – was found on an Alberta farm in December of 2021, according to the Canadian Press. It would be recalled that some Asian countries such as; China, South Korea and Philippines had suspended imports from the countries upon the discovery of a case of mad cow disease.
The ban, according to reports, disrupted the global meat trade, which was already rocked by the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, both South Korea and the Philippines lifted restrictions less than two months later, while China; which in 2021 was Canada’s third-largest beef export market, importing $193 million worth of product – has still not resumed trade. Recall that, FarmingFarmersFarms had reported that Japan was the first country to have placed a ban in 2003 after a case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in Alberta, before other countries followed suit. A typical BSE, just like classical BSE, is a progressive, fatal disease that affects the nervous system of cattle.
However, classical BSE was responsible for the BSE epidemic that started in the United Kingdom in 1986. It developed spontaneously in about one in every one million cattle and unlike the classic BSE strain; which has been linked to the fatal neurological disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease – it poses no health risk to humans and is not transmissible. Classical BSE was also responsible for Canada’s own BSE crisis, which began in 2003 with the discovery of a domestic case and led to international borders being closed to Canadian beef exports.
Frequent bans had impacts on the Canada Beef, which focuses on the development and promotion of the Canadian cattle and beef industry in both domestic and export market. According to a Professor and Senior Director of Dalhousie University’s Agri-food Analytics Laboratory in Canada, Sylvain Charlebois, opined that the impact of the ban lift may not be felt out rightly, but that it will take a while before a country starts buying products again; to make the supply chains change. Canada had announced later that there is still a high demand globally for high-quality grain fed beef and the Southern Alberta ranchers still take BSE seriously because they know what the impact can be to their livelihood.
Meanwhile, the lingering Chinese ban on Canadian beef, which industry officials expected would be short-lived remains in place 17 months later, and industry representatives say they are in the dark about the reasons. China has been blocking beef shipments from Canadian processing plants ever since an atypical case of BSE, a rare variant of classical BSE, which is also called mad cow disease, was found on an Alberta farm in December 2021. At the time, Canadian officials expressed little concern that the case would have lasting market impacts. However, confusion persists with passing time as both Brazil and Ireland have also recently had their beef blocked by China due to cases of atypical BSE in those countries.
It was gathered that China had resumed beef trade with both countries, and it took only a short time – in the case of Brazil – only four weeks. The Executive Vice President for the Canadian Cattle Association, Dennis Laycraft said, “Most countries do not close when you find an atypical case. It’s just a few that did and you know, all those other countries opened up fairly quickly”. As Canada expresses hope of getting things back to normal with China, Laycraft said during the year-and-a-half that the Chinese market had been closed, the Canadian beef industry had seen increasing sales into Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
This had been largely due to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade agreement between Canada and 10 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Although China has given no reason yet for this, but Laycraft had allayed fears of another long ban as the Japan’s, stating that they were confident that all the technical requirements and information that were needed had been provided, to allow China take decision to reopen. However, there are insinuations that the ban may not be unconnected with perceived tension, between the Chinese government and the Canadian authority.