Canada has been negotiating with GCC countries to allow access for its meat producers. The Canadian government estimates its beef trade with Qatar could bring in around US$1.8m a year.
“Not only does Qatar have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, Qatar imports more than 90% of its food requirements. The Canadian meat industry appreciates and welcomes the successful negotiation of full beef access to the Qatari market,” said Henry Mizrahi, president of the Canadian Meat Council.
“The Canadian Beef Breeds Council and the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association recognise the on-going support for the Canadian beef industry from both Minister Ritz and Minister Fast by opening new markets for Canadian cattle and genetics. Market access coupled with strategic investments are essential for the economic stability and profitability of Canadian cattle producers,” said Michael Latimer, executive director of the Canadian Beef Breeds Council, and Michael Hall, executive director of the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association in a statement.
BSE bans still in force
The new agreement comes amid intense negotiations between GCC states and many meat producing countries, which have been working to open, or often re-open meat and livestock imports to the Gulf. Many Gulf countries have placed severe restrictions on meat imports in recent years, following disease and contamination scandals, particularly BSE.
Two years ago, Qatar allowed Canadian cattle, sheep and goats to be imported, with Oman also agreeing to open its market to the country’s cattle around the same time. Last year saw the GCC as a whole lift its ban on Irish beef products, and this year Iraq agreed to resume Brazilian beef imports.
But in February 2013, the Qatar government brought in new rules requiring strict import controls on meat, in the wake of revelations that large quantities of horsemeat had been mixed with beef and had entered the food production chain in Europe.
Saudi’s inspection demands
Other GCC countries have been even more strict, with Saudi Arabia maintaining a ban on US and Brazilian beef following isolated cases of BSE in recent years. The US Department of Agriculture has been negotiating with the Saudi government since the “temporary” ban was imposed in 2012, to date without success.
In an October 2013 report, the USDA revealed the Saudi authorities’ conditions for repealing the ban first included limiting US imports to boneless beef cuts from animals less than 30 months old. The second condition was inspection and registration by Saudi officials of all US beef establishments wishing to export beef to the kingdom, at a cost of US$48,000 per facility.