Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes — looking back (my generation) they are the title words of a Jimmy Buffet song (album-1977).
Today, they echo a feeling within the Canadian beef-cattle industry (experts, ordinary cattlemen) that our business is a bit too reliant (exports) on the whims and custom of our continental neighbours below the 49th parallel.
A recently released study (Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute or CAPI) supports that line of thought. Statistics show the U.S. export market absorbs about 85 per cent of Canada’s beef and cattle trade; in turn, that supply allows the U.S. to export more of their beef to expanding export markets for advantageously higher values and margins.
David McInnes, CAPI president and CEO, in his news release, says: “The data and inventory show our beef industry lacks a comprehensive strategy to address challenges and take advantages of the significant opportunities that the future offers.”
Highlighted is the risk that we possibly become “net importers of beef as our cattle cycle is experiencing lower production numbers, yet we have no readily apparent strategy in place to regain valuable domestic market share.”
McInnes further stated: “We either accept that we will remain a primary backfill supplier of beef and cattle to the U.S. — with its consequences and benefits — or we need to make a conscious strategic decision about the markets where we can perform our best. This includes increasing the share of Canadian beef in our own domestic market, taking fuller advantage of key high value foreign markets where we have or can develop competitive advantage, and deciding how we can better extract more value from the important U.S. market.”
Perhaps, with changes in attitudes, we (Canadian beef producers) could realize more value for the high quality product we market, particularly during this period of limited supply in North America.
Liz Twan is a local rancher and freelance columnist for the Tribune.