Following an eight-year ban, the South Korean government has announced it will almost immediately start accepting Canadian beef imports from animals younger than 30 months.
"As a cattle farmer, I know first-hand the negative effects BSE imposed on the cattle industry in our province and across the country," said Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Ron Kostyshyn. "South Korea is an important market for Manitoba producers and regaining access to it will give farmers across the country another option when marketing their beef."
Manitoba has the third-largest beef herd in Canada with 558,000 cows. Prior to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), South Korea was the fourth-largest market for Canadian beef. The minister noted the Canadian Cattlemen's Association has said the reopening of this market could be worth $30 million to Canadian producers by 2015.
In Manitoba, beef cattle production represents roughly nine per cent of Manitoba's farm cash receipts, which translates into $362 million of a total of $4.2 billion in 2011. This is third-highest value agriculture commodity in the province.
"We're pleased by this move and the opportunities it opens to farmers in our province. We're hopeful this will facilitate free trade negotiations with South Korea which may provide positive trade benefits for pork as well," said Kostyshyn.
When BSE was discovered in 2003, the Manitoba government moved quickly to take steps to support producers, the minister said, adding significant income assistance was provided for struggling cattle producers including $14.7 million under the Ruminant Assistance Plan and $145 million in BSE loans and income assistance.
In 2008, the Manitoba Government extended the BSE Recovery Loan Program, which deferred principle payments for three years. As of Dec. 31, 2011, a total of $14.5 million on 555 loans fell under this extension.