Ontario AG minister asks Ottawa to offer compensation to meat producers


By Marco Vigliotti, iPolitics (Canada)

Aug 6, 2019


Ontario’s agriculture minister is urging the federal government to offer compensation to meat producers harmed by the ongoing trade dispute with China.


In a letter to his federal counterpart released Tuesday, Ernie Hardeman writes that his office has been told that affected processors are “incurring losses on a weekly basis of up to $15-$30 per hog in lost revenues,” because of China’s decision to block pork imports from Canada.


“Ontario strongly encourages the federal government to work with the meat sector to provide compensation to ensure they remain viable until predictable trade is restored and assist them in securing new export markets,” he writes.


Hardeman says the trade dispute with China was raised at the recent federal-provincial-territorial meeting of agriculture ministers in Quebec City, with the country’s premiers also calling on Ottawa to provide support for sectors affected by the trade spat during their joint gathering last month in Saskatoon.


“While Ontario appreciates your efforts on this issue, we urgently need progress to support our agri-food sector,” he writes to federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.


“We are ready to work with the federal government, other provinces and Ontario’s beef and pork sectors to ensure the province’s meat products have fair access to markets, and Canada’s international brand as a supplier of high quality and safe agri-food products remains intact,” he added.


In an emailed statement, Bibeau told iPolitics she has been in touch with Hardeman to discuss “these and other important issues facing Canadian agriculture,” while noting that the feds are “taking a Team Canada approach to resolving trade issues with China.”


The Trudeau government, she said, would “continue to ensure that the sector has the support it needs.”


“We are working tirelessly to resume trade of key agricultural exports with China as soon as possible and to create new opportunities by expanding global markets for Canadian businesses,” Bibeau said, adding that Ottawa, in partnership with the provinces and territories, is in “close contact with the impacted agricultural sectors. ”


Tensions between China and Canada have run high since the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver last December. She was arrested at the behest of the U.S., who want her extradited to face criminal charges for Huawei’s alleged attempt to circumvent American sanctions against Iran.


In the weeks following, China detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, in what was widely seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest. Since then, China has suspended necessary import permits for Canadian canola — citing unsubstantiated pests complaints — and pork.


In late June, China also suspended Canadian exports of meat into its borders after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency discovered several dozen veterinary health certificates had been forged.


The Trudeau government has offered some support to canola farmers blocked out of the Chinese market. Bibeau announced in May that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada would increase the maximum loan limit under the Advance Payments Program (APP) to $1 million. For canola farmers, $500,000 will be interest-free.


The APP, a federal loan program...