Canada wants Lankan ban on imported beef products lifted
The Sri Lankan government is looking at the possibility of lifting a ban imposed on Canadian beef, beef products and cattle.
Minister of Livestock and Livestock Development C.B. Ratnayake told The Sunday Times FT that he has asked Ministry officials to investigate the possibility of lifting this ban which was first imposed following a reported case of mad cow disease. He said that he has asked for a report to be submitted on the investigation by the middle of next week. This move comes as a response to a request made by the Canadian Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Leonard Edwards who was in Sri Lanka this week.
Speaking to The Sunday Times FT during his brief visit Edwards noted that while Sri Lanka’s trade and economic policies remain extremely investor friendly his government was very concerned about the ban on Canadian beef and related products imposed by the Sri Lankan government since 2003. Sri Lanka followed the lead of a worldwide ban on Canadian beef exports following the discovery of a single reported case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in May, 2003.
Edwards says that since 2003 his government has taken comprehensive safety measures superceding international standards to ensure that their beef and related items are hygienic and safe for consumption. In a meeting with Ratnayake this week he requested that the Sri Lankan experts examine the scientific evidence in favour of lifting the ban.
Commenting further on this issue the Canadian High Commission’s Counsellor for Political and Economic affairs, Christina Prefontaine noted that lifting this ban was important for Canada’s credibility in the international market. “Any ban is a concern for the Canadian Government. We are trying to open up to all markets. That is why we want this ban lifted on the basis of scientific detail,” she said.
Sri Lanka imports around 100,000 kg of beef annually, catering largely to the hotel sector. According to the Ministry of Livestock and Livestock Development, Sri Lanka currently imports beef and related items only from countries certified as BSE free. The Department of Animal Production said that Sri Lanka imported 91,439 kg of beef in 2006 from OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) approved Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, India and Denmark.
However the OIE is yet to recognise Canada as BSE free with Canadian officials saying the country is one-level below the risk free status.
Ratnayake said that he is willing to work towards lifting the ban on Canada provided he is given the greenlight from the WHO and the OIE. He said that he has asked his officials to conduct an investigation into the matter and a report is due on Wednesday.
He added that if the ban is eased, Sri Lanka could also consider the possibility of importing high quality dairy cattle from Canada in a bid to improve the quality of Sri Lankan dairy cows.
The Canadian government is also looking at improving trade ties with Sri Lanka via the Sri Lanka- Canada Business Council. Edwards met with members of the Council to strengthen commercial relations and also called on the Minister of Health Nimal Siripala De Silva, Secretary of Agriculture Tissa Warnasuriya and officials of the Trade and Commerce Ministry. President of the Sri Lanka – Canada Business Council Primal Wijenayake noted that the council is looking at sending trade delegations to Canada to improve bi-lateral trade activity as well as lure Canadian investments into Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan exports to Canada are currently on the decline with the figure dropping to Rs. 7186 million last year compared to Rs. 7240 million in 2004. Meanwhile Canadian imports have almost doubled with Sri Lanka importing goods worth Rs. 9546 million compared to just Rs. 4412 million in 2004, creating a negative balance of trade of Rs. 2360 million. Apparels make up 55 percent of Sri Lanka’s exports to Canada while 84 percent of Canadian imports comprise of wheat grain.