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Canada weary of fighting Jamaica's meat-importation ban

Published:Thursday | September 19, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

Canada has given up on getting Jamaica to lift the decade-old ban on importation of meat products from its North American trading partner.

"The ban has not been lifted by Jamaica and we are not pursuing anymore to convince Jamaica," Rick McElrea, Canada's senior trade commissioner, told The Gleaner yesterday.

"We will let it ride and we hope that Jamaica will lift the ban, (but) Canada is not pursuing this issue anymore. We are not happy, but so be it," he told The Gleaner.

In late May 2003, Agriculture Minister Roger Clarke announced that "no permits will be granted for the importation of live ruminants, ruminant meat and meat products (i.e., goats, cattle, and sheep) from Canada".

Then, Clarke described the ban as a precautionary measure, taken in the wake of a single confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as mad cow disease, in Alberta, Canada.

Describing the ban as a "legitimate action at the time", McElrea says Canada has since corrected the situation with the World Organisation for Animal Health, the intergovern-mental body responsible for improving animal health worldwide, designating it a "controlled-risk country".

OTHER COUNTRIES LIFTED BAN

This, according to McElrea, means that while the disease exists in theory, it is under control, and since then, 82 countries, including the United States, Japan, and member states of the European Union have lifted the ban.

The senior trade commissioner noted that the ban had not resulted in any significant loss of earnings, since there have never been any huge quantities of Canadian beef imported to Jamaica.

He said, however, that the time and money invested in getting Jamaica to reverse its action was significant and the Canadians had grown weary of trying.

"It has cost an awful lot to pursue the effort, you know. The Cattlemen's Association has basically said, 'Okay, we have better markets to pursue, bigger markets','" he disclosed.