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Representatives of Canada’s major pork exporting companies have held “informal” talks with UK retailers about potential future trade deals between the two countries after the UK has left the European Union.

Canada Pork International, which represents nearly 40 of the country’s pork exporters, told just-food post-Brexit trading arrangements were discussed last month on the sidelines of the SIAL trade show in Paris.

Michael Young, Canada Pork’s vice-president for technical programmes and marketing services, said future deals with the UK outside the EU are “likely to include supplying our premium pork products for retail in UK”.

Young said: “We see opportunities in one-to-one agreements with the UK, initially for the foodservice and retail sectors, but obviously we are open to all kinds of agreements.”

According to Young, “initial talks have been with contacts including retailer representatives”, although he declined to say which retailers might be involved. “We have had a lot of British companies ask us informally about long-term trading relationships and we have spoken to some in Paris. We certainly see the UK as a key market after Brexit,” Young said.

Young said he could foresee demand for Canadian pork in the UK heading “over and above” that of the other individual nations that will remain as part of the EU, “such as in demand for meat from free-range pigs”. 

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By GlobalData

Canada’s pork exports to the 28 member states of the EU amounted to a combined total of 2,328 tonnes in 2014, representing a total value of nearly CAD8m.

However, that amount is dwarfed by shipments to other markets. Young said Canada exports around 1.2bn tonnes of pork annually to more than 100 markets. He said the exports total is expected to be up slightly on the 1.1bn tonnes exported in 2015, which were worth more than CAD3.4bn (US$2.5bn).

More than 395,000 tonnes of pork was exported to the US in 2014, valued at around CAD1.4bn, according to latest data from Canada Pork. Pork exports to Japan amounted to nearly 200,000 tonnes in 2014, with a value of CAD951,000. 

Young said the US is expected to remain Canada’s biggest export market for pork in terms of volume next year, although Japan is expected to overtake the US in terms of value.

“Japan is a mature market for us and is the most competitive. We sell chilled and frozen pork there and that sector is where the high value is increasing for us,” Young said. “However, we expect that China will soon become our largest market in terms of volume.”

Earlier this month, Canadian pork processing group HyLife announced plans to modernise and expand its production facilities in Manitoba to help meet increasing demand for products from Japan and China. HyLife said the CAD125m (US$93m) project, at its flagship pork processing facility in Neepawa in southern Canada, would start “as early as 2017”.