“There’s huge potential when you’re talking a brand new market of roughly 500 million consumers,” remarked Minister Ritz after the round table discussion. “We’ve got a little bit of access into that market, but nothing you’d say is causing our producers to take notice of it or processors to expand their capacity in order to address it.”
The CETA deal was signed last month, and is expected to be ratified within roughly two years. That’s when nearly all agricultural tariff lines will be removed, allowing for easier trade between the two economies.
The immediate benefits to the Peace Region remain to be seen, but Ritz argues one of the sectors most likely to benefit is the beef producers.
“This is brand new dollars and numbers that we’re talking about for the livestock sector, which is, of course, a big chunk of the piece,” he explains. “They’ve identified this as a $600 million year gain, so that’s tremendous opportunity to start to expand our cow herd. We haven’t had a lot of good news over the last 10 years, but this certainly has the livestock producers excited.”
In the meantime, Ritz suggests local farmers can build up their livestock herds, in preparation for the free-trade deal to come into play.
“Pork can cycle a lot faster and build up their capacity a lot faster, but beef is going to take a while to build those herds and we’ll have that during that transition period.”
Another trade opportunity discussed with the producers was making better use of the ports at Prince Rupert, with the federal and Alberta governments looking at the logistics. Ritz argues anything produced here that’s in demand by countries in the Pacific Rim could be moved that way.
“A lot more product could be moved, especially as we gain access into the Pacific Rim in a more wholesome way than we have now,” he says. “With China alone, you’ve got $1.3 billion people looking for food everyday on the table, and that’s another thing that Canada has access to in a lot better way than before.”