Ole! Mexico lifts ban on Canadian beef

CALGARY (Oct. 3, 2003) — Canada’s second largest beef market has officially lifted its ban on some Canadian beef, allowing a wider selection of products that are still not permitted to cross into the U.S.

In a deal signed Wednesday, Mexico’s agriculture minister agreed to accept fresh and frozen cuts of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months, as well as liver, kidney, heart and tongue — items that have not been allowed into the U.S. since the border was partially opened last month to selected cuts of boneless beef. In 2002, organ products were worth $150 million in exports — $15 million in tongues alone.

Canada’s beef industry is currently enduring a ban of most beef products and all live cattle from over 20 countries since a single cow was found to contain mad cow disease near Lethbridge, Alta. in May. In the following couple months, it was estimated Canada was losing about $11 million a day in exports alone, with the figure more than doubling when related industries like packing, retail, and trucking were factored in.

While live cattle is still banned both in the U.S. and Mexico, Canadian officials are optimistic this recent announcement will help tear down additional export barriers. Mexico announced earlier this month that it is prepared to open its borders to Canadian dairy cattle, providing it can work out transportation arrangements. About 15,000 cows have been already purchased by Mexican producers and are awaiting shipment. The issue for Mexico, however, is to liberalize restrictions on Canadian beef without causing any adverse trade reactions from the U.S.

“If it looks to be that the U.S. is not in any way punishing Mexico for allowing a broader product mix, we expect in very short order to see bone-in beef, tripe and other products to be approved for importation,” Ted Haney of the Calgary-based Canada Beef Export Federation told the Canadian Press.

Haney said the kidneys, tongue and hearts will initially be shipped by ocean — bypassing U.S. territory. But in the longer term, he’s hoping the U.S. Department of Agriculture will look at transit permit revisions that would allow prohibited products to travel through the U.S.

The Mexican market is Canada’s second largest after the U.S. In 2002, $282 million worth of beef was exported from Canada to Mexico — about 6,000 tonnes a month.

— with files from CP

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