Evidence of meeting #45 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Blair Coomber  Government Co-Chair, Beef Value Chain Roundtable, and Director General, Multilateral Relations, Policy and Engagement Directorate, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Florian Possberg  Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable
  • Andrew Gordanier  Industry Co-Chair, Chair, Canadian Sheep Federation, Sheep Value Chain Roundtable
  • Travis Toews  Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Wayne, you're well out of time. I was just letting the witness answer that.

Anything to add, Travis?

4:20 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

No, I think that covered it.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Okay.

Mr. Storseth, you have five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for coming. As always, it's good to see you guys, some of you more than others, but it's always important to talk about the red meat value chain.

I had a couple of questions. Perhaps we could highlight some of the things we were talking about.

You were talking about the government creating policies that will increase throughput at ports. That is something that I think is absolutely critical. What do you see as some of the best practices or ways forward in which we can do that?

4:20 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

The investment the federal government has made in Prince Rupert we view as very positive, but it's taken a long time to make it practical to use that port. Our major exports for pork are Japan and Korea, and we're also exporting to the Philippines and other places. The time from Prince Rupert to Tokyo is about two days less than it is from Vancouver. Vancouver is quite congested. But to make that practical, we really need drop-off points for reefer units across the Prairies and across other parts of Canada that aren't the major centres, like Montreal or Toronto.

Sometimes that's a bureaucracy that just needs an attitude change. On the Prairies, we think the railways might have a more difficult bureaucracy to deal with than the federal government. Hopefully that's changing, but it takes a while to get things done.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much. I'll come back to you in a minute.

Mr. Toews, you were talking about the beef value chain round table and some of the successes we've had because of it. You were talking about key markets. Another thing you talked about was veterinarians being posted abroad. Can you talk about some of the places you've identified to send them and which markets are key markets for us?

4:20 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

Sure. Thanks for that question.

Really, the importance of having technical expertise abroad came to the forefront in 2003, when there was a massive effort to begin to reopen those markets. As for key markets that have received veterinarians, one has been Mexico and another one has been Japan.

In the Japanese market it has been very critical throughout the market access work to have that technical expertise on the ground. We're fortunate with the expertise we have there today, particularly at this juncture of Japan moving forward with, hopefully, opening for beef and cattle under 30 months.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you.

It looks as if we might to have to talk slower. Mr. Lobb's translation isn't working for you there, Mr. Toews.

I'd like to talk a little bit about the importance of rail to your industry and to everybody's industry. But I'll start with you, Mr. Toews. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of rail when it comes to your industry, and also, perhaps, feel free to allude to the rail review that's going on right now.

4:20 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

I'll speak to the importance of an efficient infrastructure system. In the cattle industry, rail is not used significantly to move our product directly. However, rail is used to move feed stuffs across the country and into the country at times from the U.S. Obviously, because we're a global player, we have to be competitive on all fronts so we need a very efficient transportation system. An efficient rail system is part of that equation.

I can't really speak to the rail review, but I can certainly state that our industry is dependent on a very efficient transportation system and infrastructure.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Does anybody else have a comment on the importance of rail?

4:20 p.m.

Member, Board of Directors, Canadian Pork Council, Pork Value Chain Roundtable

Florian Possberg

If I may, the challenge with meat is that it's a product that requires swift action and refrigeration or freezing. You know, “Sell it or smell it.” It's not only the logistics of getting containers to places, it's making sure that it actually moves in a very timely manner and the product is kept under the conditions necessary for it.

Our primary high-paying markets in southeast Asia demand fresh-chilled product. This means it has to be kept in very controlled temperatures, two-to-four degrees, two-to-seven degrees Celsius. That product, if it's properly handled, can have up to 70 days shelf life from time of processing to the product actually being in stores in far-away markets. But if those conditions aren't met, that product will deteriorate rather rapidly. Making sure that everything works smoothly is very important for our product.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you very much.

I'd like to make one last point to thank industry, thank yourselves. Mr. Toews, I've worked with you on some of these things. Government can open up some doors and take down some barriers, but really it is Canadian industry that has to step up and create the relationships and get the job done. You guys have been doing an excellent job over the last few years, so I think it's important that we thank you for your work as well.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Larry Miller

Thank you.

Ms. Brosseau, you have five minutes.

June 6th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much.

I've only been on the committee about two months and there's so much to learn. Recently we visited Cargill in Guelph. We started off there and then we visited a feedlot and I really appreciated seeing how the animal moves through the transformation and actually comes to your table. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about the distribution sector, because I know in Canada there's maybe three or four big grocery stores—Loblaws and Metro—and I was wondering how this affects each of your industries. Is it positive? Is it negative?

Who wants to start?

4:25 p.m.

Past-President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association, Beef Value Chain Roundtable

Travis Toews

Thank you for that question. It's a question that I think many producers ask across the country and it's a worthwhile question. I think that not only do we need to consider our retail distributors but probably our processing industry as well.

As primary producers we depend on an efficient processing and distribution sector. We need them to be very competitive in order for us to be competitive globally.

I think the best way to answer this.... I recently had a discussion with a counterpart in Australia and Australia has very close geographic access to many high-value Asian markets. They did not have their markets disrupted due to a BSE event and yet their fed cattle always trade consistently lower than Canada and the U.S. I asked this individual, who's a leader in their industry, why is that the case, given the market access that they have and his answer was very quick. He said, “In Australia we simply do not have as efficient and as competitive a processing and distribution system as you have in North America.”

As producers we sometimes don't believe that we benefit from that world-class processing sector and that world-class distribution network, but the reality is that we do. Market power shifts and swings from time to time, but overall, we have a very competitive distribution sector here.