Still No Timeline for Reopening Korea to Canadian Beef; Ritz Wraps Up Trade Mission to Asia

Minister Ritz speaks at a Canada Beef Inc. event in Seoul, South Korea (photo: AAFC)

There’s still no indication when South Korea will lift the temporary ban on Canadian beef it implemented following the discovery of a cow with BSE in Alberta in early February.

While the BSE case did not impact trade in most of Canada’s export markets, Korea and several smaller markets temporarily suspended imports of Canadian beef, saying they needed more information about the case.

So what’s the timeline for reopening the market?

“I wish I could say that I had a deadline date — we don’t,” said Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz following a trade mission to Korea, Japan and Vietnam this week.

Minister Ritz speaks at a Canada Beef Inc. event in Seoul, South Korea (photo: AAFC)

Minister Ritz speaks at a Canada Beef Inc. event in Seoul, South Korea (photo: AAFC)

Speaking with Canadian media from Tokyo on Friday afternoon, Ritz said he was “very frank and very candid” in discussing market access for Canadian beef with Korean Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-Phil.

While recognizing Canada’s risk status with the World Organization for Animal Health hasn’t changed, he said the Korean government “seems to be going more to the court of public opinion…we underscored with them that we would only accept scientific studies, not necessarily adjudicating this through the media in Korea.”

A Korean delegation is slated to visit Canada next week, noted the minister.

“Hopefully that will help underscore that everything we’re doing is in Korean consumers’ best interest,” said Ritz.

Canada exported around $25 million worth of beef to South Korea in 2014, and there was hope that amount would grow with the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement taking effect on January 1st, 2015.

Meanwhile, government officials in Vietnam and Japan did not express concern about the new BSE finding, according to Ritz and Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Dave Solverson, who accompanied the minister.

“The question was not even raised,” said Solverson. “The only question they had was ‘when can you send us more beef?'”

In addition to promoting Canadian beef in all three countries, Ritz also joined Cereals Canada to meet with the Japanese Grain Importers and Flour Millers Associations to discuss exports of Canadian wheat.

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