Friday, May 29, 2015

Aussie beef hits tariff wall

Beef imports from Australia are poised to hit a tariff wall of 26.5 per cent because imports so far this year are running about 46 per cent ahead of last year.

When imports hit 35,000 tonnes, the Canadian tariff kicks in.

Uruguay has already hit its Canadian tariff wall at 12,000 tonnes.

Canada’s beef herd has been decimated by a series of challenges, including BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or mad cow’s disease) that cut off exports and cratered prices, United States Country of Origin Labeling regulations that depressed Canadian cattle prices,  a steep increase in feed costs when a combination of drought and ethanol production set corn prices soaring and then droughts hit Canadian pastures.

Now Canadian beef prices are near or above record price levels, making imports extremely attractive.

The Australians are pushing for increased access to markets as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations which are now coming close to a possible agreement.

Meat council wants provincial inspection scrapped

The Canadian Meat Council has renewed its call for a single standard for meat inspection.

“We believe that the best option for reducing interprovincial barriers and promoting trade of meat products in both Canada and export markets would be to terminate the existence of a two-tiered system of food safety regulations and inspection in this country and move to one level of food safety inspection, which is federal,” said Henry Mizrahi, president of Lester’s Foods in Laval, Que., and past-president of the meat council, which represents federally-inspected meat plants. 

Some small Ontario-inspected meat companies were forced to close when the province moved closer to federal standards several years ago, but Ontario regulations are not yet a complete match.

Mizrahi told the council’s annual meeting in Ottawa recently that the small plants ought to get government help to meet federal standards.

“We want to ensure that these companies can continue to survive but under a unified system that provides the same food safety protections that we do,” he said.

Ninety-five percent of animals slaughtered in Canada are processed in federally registered establishments. Products produced in provincially registered facilities can be traded only within the province.

I have never understood how Canadians can justify the double standard. If the federal standards are too tough, then let the provinces lobby to make them sensible. But if they are warranted, how do the provinces justify their laxity?

Avian flu continues to spread in U.S.

Avian influenza continues to spread in Iowa and Minnesota which each had two more poultry flocks hit this week.

That brings the total to 191 flocks since the first on Dec. 19  and the bird count to 43,292,373.

It’s no longer likely to be migrating ducks and geese that are dropping infected feces that are causing the recent outbreaks because migration season is over and the heat of recent weeks is high enough to kill most of the virus.

That leaves sloppy biosecurity as the most likely reason the virus continues to spread.

In Ontario, where there have been three outbreaks in Oxford County, also attributed to migrating waterfowl, there have been no new outbreaks for a month.

The tight biosecurity and excellent industry communications in Ontario is a welcome byproduct of supply management in the poultry industry.

Loblaws recalls hummus

Loblaws is recalling 14 kinds of hummus and a sweet potato and Harrisa dip, all sold under its President’s Choice label.

Some people have been sickened by a poison produced by Staphylococcus bacteria found in the products. How many and where is apparently a state secret.

So far the Public Health Agency of Canada has said nothing about the situation. So much for our guardian of public health.

The name of the supplier has not been released. So much for Loblaws transparency.

Hummus is made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.

In Ontario the recall includes sales from Fortinos, Loblaws, No Frills, Box by No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore, Valu-Mart, Your Independent Grocer, Zehrs, Shoppers Drug Mart and affiliated independent stores. 

There are more and different Loblaws store names in Atlantic and Western Canada and they are all involved in the recall.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grain farmers aim to sting politicians over bee regs

Grain Farmers of Ontario is holding rallies at the riding offices for Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal in Peterborough and Deb Matthews in London Friday.

Matthews is a cabinet minister responsible for Poverty Reduction Strategy.

The farmers are upset about restrictions on the use of neonicitinoid seed treatment pesticides which have been implicated in harming bees.