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Belarus restricts cattle import from Canada

February 20, 2015 Belarusian News 

MINSK, 20 February (BelTA) – Belarus has temporarily restricted the import of cattle from Canada, BelTA learned from the Veterinary and Food Control Department at the Belarusian Agriculture and Food Ministry.

“According to the World Organization for Animal Health, bovine spongiform encephalopathy was registered in Alberta Province of Canada,” the department said. In this regard,
on 21 February Belarus will introduce temporary restrictions on the importation of Canadian pedigree and other cattle, sheep and goats, wild, zoo and circus animals susceptible to the disease, and also meat and other raw materials made from them, leather, feed and feed ingredients of animal origin containing the DNA of ruminants.

Belarus has temporarily suspended all the previously issued permits for the import of the above-mentioned products from Canada.

More countries ban Canadian beef due to BSE fears; tally now at five

February 23, 2015 Amanda Stephenson|Calgary Herald

Three more countries have banned Canadian beef imports in response to this country’s newest BSE case, bringing the total tally of new border closures to five.

In the past three days, Taiwan, Belarus and Peru have announced restrictions on Canadian beef in light of a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy discovered earlier this month on a farm near Spruce Grove. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed last week that the cow was born in March 2009 — 21 months after the Canadian government implemented an enhanced feed ban aimed at preventing the spread of the disease.

The actions of the three latest countries come on the heels of decisions by South Korea and Indonesia, both of which moved last week to halt imports of Canadian beef and beef products. On Monday, John Masswohl — director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association — said the industry group was disappointed to see more nations take reactive measures.

“In the first week or so it looked like it was going to be calm, with countries doing what they’re supposed to do. But now there’s a couple of dominoes coming down here,” Masswohl said.

Canada exports a negligible amount of beef to Peru and Belarus, Masswohl said. But Taiwan, South Korea and Indonesia are more significant, accounting for about $70 million in Canadian beef exports annually.

“That’s still small in terms of our overall mix, but it’s disturbing in that they’re important markets, valuable customers, and we want to have them all,” he said.

Masswohl said Taiwan’s decision is particularly frustrating, since the country has imposed a blanket ban with no indication of when trade might resume. Peru, on the other hand, has said its suspension of trade is a temporary 180-day precaution, while South Korea is following a protocol that allows it to temporarily block import clearances until the safety of the supply chain has been proven. He added he remains confident Canada’s major trading partners — including the U.S., which accounts for 70 per cent of Canadian beef exports — will not follow suit.

“I was told, right on Day 1, that the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) had indicated it had no intention of imposing any restrictions,” Masswohl said. “These are decisions that these countries (Taiwan, Peru, etc.) have taken independently, despite what they’ve heard or haven’t heard from Canada. Most other countries are not doing that.”

A spokesperson for federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the Chief Veterinary Office for Canada is in close contact with each of this country’s important beef export markets, updating them on the status of the CFIA’s investigation and encouraging them to continue to recognize Canada’s international status as a country at “controlled risk” of BSE.

“The current temporary closures represent a very small amount of Canada’s total beef exports in 2014,” said Jeffrey English in an e-mail. “That said, the government is working to reopen all borders as quickly as possible.”

Meanwhile, CFIA investigators are working to trace the feed supply of the Spruce Grove cow, to determine if any other animals have been put at risk. BSE can be spread when an animal consumes proteins — including specified risk materials like brains and spinal cords — from another infected animal.

Masswohl said he has been told by the CFIA that the number of cows in the infected animal’s birth cohort (the Spruce Grove cow was born on a different farm somewhere in northern Alberta, though the CFIA has not publicly identified the location) is “in the hundreds.” Each will need to be traced, and — if they are still alive — will be destroyed for testing. “But I’ve been told the records on the birth farm are exemplary, and we do know it was a purebred animal, so that means there are also good records at the breed association office,” Masswohl said. “So that helps.”

The latest case of BSE is Canada’s 19th overall, and its first since 2011. When the disease was first discovered in a lone Alberta cow in 2003, 40 countries — including the United States — immediately closed their borders and exports of live cattle and boxed beef plummeted. Today, most of those markets have reopened. In 2014, Canada exported more than 317,000 tonnes of beef, valued at $1.93 billion, to 69 countries worldwide.

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