Alberta Beef and Live Cattle Exports

US - Alberta is the largest beef producing province in Canada, as well as the leading exporter of beef and live cattle. During the past decade (1996-2005), beef and live cattle contributed significantly to Alberta’s agri-food exports. Combined, these categories accounted for an average $1.8 billion or 34 per cent of the province’s total agri-food exports (1996-2005 average). Also, since 1999, beef has been Alberta’s most important export product, replacing wheat which ranked second.
calendar icon 7 March 2007
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Nationally, 77 per cent of Canadian beef export value comes from Alberta. After a decline in exports in 2003, as a result of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), Alberta exports of beef rebounded in 2004. Larger shipments to the U.S. and Mexico, as well as partially resumed beef trade with several other countries contributed to the increase. In total, 2004 exports rose 50.4 per cent to 359,338 tonnes ($1.5 billion) from 238,924 tonnes ($1.1 billion) in 2003. Following this increase, 2005 beef exports declined marginally to 353,669 tonnes, while the value fell 7.0 per cent to $1.4 billion, reflecting poor beef prices. In 2004 and 2005, due to trade restrictions, mainly boneless cuts and edible offal (fresh, chilled and frozen) from animals under 30-months of age were allowed for export.

The U.S. has traditionally been the largest market for Alberta beef with Mexico in second place. Prior to the discovery of BSE in 2003, the top five markets for Alberta beef were the U.S., Mexico, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In 2004, Alberta did not export any beef to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, due to continued closure of their borders.

As of December 2005, Canada regained partial access to the Japanese market with the limitation in exports to beef from cattle under 21-months of age. In 2005, Alberta exported three tonnes ($45,000) of beef to this market.

Exports of live cattle are Alberta’s third largest agri-food export. These exports were severely affected by the closure of the U.S. border on May 20, 2003, due to BSE. As a result, live cattle exports dropped to $196 million in 2003, and consequently to zero in 2004. On July 18, 2005, the U.S. reopened its border to Canadian live cattle under 30-months of age and imported 213,472 head worth $271 million. Prior to BSE (1998-2002), Alberta’s revenue from exports of live cattle averaged $602 million annually.

In 2006, according to the latest trade statistics just released by Statistics Canada, Alberta exports of beef declined about 36 per cent to $914 million from 2005, with quantity down 26 per cent to 261,217 tonnes. Lower exports of beef were recorded for Alberta’s major markets such as the U.S. and Mexico. On the other hand, exports of live cattle grew significantly offsetting the decline in beef exports. From January to December 2006, Alberta shipped 562,839 head of non-purebred cattle (under 30-months of age) worth $690 million. These exports exceeded the pre-BSE (1998-2002) five-year average value ($602 million). All cattle were destined to the United States.

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