China Opens Trade for Canadian Tallow

After years of long and, at times, frustrating negotiations, China has agreed to accept tallow from Canada, a major step for North American rendered products.

The announcement came in early February during a Canadian trade mission to China that included Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a large contingent of agriculture representatives. Renderer Barry Glotman, president and chief executive officer, West Coast Reduction, Vancouver, BC, was part of that trade mission.

“It was a great trip and I think it was received very positively from both ends, from both the Canadian and Chinese points of view,” Glotman is quoted in a Vancouver Sun article. He went on to say he viewed the bigger advantage of the trip as being “the positive influence of showing that Canada wants to do business with China.”

China was the top export market for Canadian tallow in 2002, importing more than $31 million worth of the rendered product. Then in 2003, the door slammed shut after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in the native cattle herd in Canada. During the past nine years, China’s global imports of tallow have grown to more than $400 million annually.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association expects the renewed exports of tallow to outpace its previous performance and for the Chinese market for Canadian beef and tallow to exceed $110 million once full market access is achieved. Before China stopped importing Canadian tallow, West Coast Reduction was selling about 80,000 metric tons of tallow a year to China, which today would be worth about $80 million, according to Glotman.

While the announcement is good news, some in the industry, including Ken Ingram, West Coast Reduction, are taking a wait and see attitude.

“An announcement is one thing, trade is another,” he told The Western Producer.

China first committed to restoring access for Canadian beef and beef products, including beef tallow for industrial use, during Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the country in June 2010. Since that time, extensive technical negotiations have taken place leading to a new protocol being signed on February 8, 2012, for industrial beef tallow to be exported from Canada to China. This represents the second step following the 2010 commitments by China.

The previous step was the establishment of the protocol for exports of boneless beef from cattle under 30 months of age. While currently only three facilities have been approved, work will continue to expand the list of Canadian plants eligible to export beef to China and then add bone-in beef products and eventually beef from cattle over 30 months of age in accordance with the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE, science-based rules for trade. In 2007, the OIE officially categorized Canada as a controlled risk country for BSE, allowing for the safe trade in all beef and cattle under specified conditions, which Canada meets.

The U.S. rendering industry is still awaiting final import requirements for tallow for technical purposes to China, which lifted its ban on U.S. tallow in 2009. Industry officials believe the opening of the China market to Canadian tallow puts the United States one step closer to its goal of gaining access to that market as well.

April 2012 RENDER | back