What Surprises Ukrainian Food Exporters to Canada Should Be Prepared for?

The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), which entered into force in summer of 2017, may potentially open a wide range of opportunities for Ukrainian exports. Now, there is just a little left to do – to take advantage of these opportunities.

Taking into account the fact that Canada, as well as Ukraine, is an export-oriented country, the issue of veterinary and phytosanitary control of imports is a serious challenge.

Canadians strictly control agricultural products crossing their borders, since the importation of a product contaminated by plant pests or pathogens compromises Canada’s own export potential and undermines safety of its citizens.

The Way to Canada

Safety guarantee of the imported goods in Canada has to be supported by:

1) phytosanitary certificate (for products of plant origin that are subject to quarantine);

2) veterinary certificate (for products of animal origin) issued by the competent authority of the exporting country.

The central authority that establishes veterinary and phytosanitary regulations for Canadian manufacturers and importers at the federal level is the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This is essentially an equivalent of the Ukrainian State Service for Food Safety and Consumer Protection (SSUFSCP).

How does it work in practice? For instance, Ukrainian beef producer sees good prospects for selling its products in Canada. But for the importation to the Canadian territory the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) requires that the products have veterinary certificates.

The producer itself or together with the representatives of the respective association of producers approaches the SSUFSCP asking it to initiate the procedure for the approval of veterinary certificates for beef with the Canadian regulatory authority.

In line with the current Canadian official procedure, the Ukrainian party has to provide comprehensive information (questionnaire responses) regarding the legal framework, the competent authority network, the existing state control system and procedures, statistics in Ukraine, etc. Once the Canadian party has processed the information provided to it, the SSUFSCP and the concerned exporters undergo an audit by the Canadian regulatory authority.

Only upon the receipt of positive audit findings and approval of the veterinary certificate form for a specific product category, the SSUFSCP will be given permission to export the appropriate type of product.

It is worth noting that this procedure will not occur automatically, but should be initiated by the concerned Ukrainian producers.

It should also be understood that elimination of these barriers takes time, sometimes years.

Phytosanitary and Veterinary Certificates Approval Procedures

  1. Producer or association of producers sees good prospects for its products in the Canadian market and approaches the SSUFSCP.

  2. The SSUFSCP approaches the appropriate Canadian regulatory authorities and initiates the procedure of certificate approval.

  3. The Ukrainian party provides the Canadian party with all appropriate information on the product safety control in Ukraine.

  4. The Canadian regulatory authority conducts audits of the SSUFSCP and the concerned exporters.

  5. If the audit has been successfully passed, the SSUFSCP is entitled to issue appropriate certificates that are recognized in Canada.

The procedure for recognizing the control system as described above is applicable to both Ukrainian exports to Canada and Canadian imports to Ukraine. Presently, competent Ukrainian and Canadian authorities have approved 15 international veterinary certificates for importing to Ukraine.

Who is Next

However, Ukraine’s trade potential with Canada is much higher. In Ukraine, there is a strong interest in exports of poultry, packages of bees (i.e. live bees) and confectionery and other products to the Canadian market.

Efforts to open the Canadian market for Ukrainian chicken meat continue. In October 2016, the SSUFSCP submitted to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency under the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture and Food three requests for the accreditation of Ukraine to export poultry and poultry products to Canada. While in April 2017, an additional request was sent for the assessment of Ukraine’s status with regard to the export of bee packages to Canada. So far, the only response including additional questions and clarifications that has been received is the one related to the poultry meat. It is currently being processed by the SSUFSCP experts.

The Ukrainian dairy product producers’ will benefit from learning more about the Supply Management System that operates in Canada. This system is based on monitoring the dairy product consumption and a milk quota system for the Canadian farmers.

Canadians strive to satisfy the demand by the local dairy products to the extent possible. Insufficient amounts of these products are compensated through import quotas. Thus, even regardless of sanitary restrictions, market opportunities for dairy products in Canada are very limited.

Communication with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has revealed that, currently, a ban has been put on the Ukrainian cereals imports to Canada. This is due to the fact that a few years ago, pests were found in one of the lots of imported Ukrainian cereals, although appropriate phytosanitary certificate had been provided.

The lifting of the ban requires additional communication between the relevant authorities of both countries. It is worth noting that the SSUFSCP has not received any requests to resolve this issue from Ukrainian exporters.

Things You Need to Know

Systematically organized information on the documents required to import food products to Canada can be found in the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website.

It is important to remember that in Canada it is the importer who is responsible for the compliance of the imported products with the local legislation. To this end, a Market Access Secretariat has been established under the Canadian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, which through an ‘open window’ service operating as a publicly accessible e-mail server processes inquiries from Canadian businesses and provides recommendations on ways to access both the domestic and foreign markets.

It is also important that in the second half of 2018 legislative changes will come into effect in Canada that will change the approach to food safety control. These will be based on the risk analysis principle and the need for importers to obtain import licenses for the controlled shipments in the future.

Ukrainian exporters already now need to pay attention to the new Canadian preventive food safety controls.

The implementation of the Free Trade Agreement requires a systematic cooperation between Ukrainian and Canadian government authorities, which has become more active now. In November 2017, with the support of the Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support Project the SSUFSCP delegation visited Canada and established important contacts with local regulatory authorities.

We are sure that in 2018 our joint efforts will make the Canadian market closer to Ukrainian food exporters.

Authors:

Boris Kobal, Director, Food Safety and Veterinary Service Department, State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection

Olena Kuryata, Chief of Unit for Foreign Relations and European Integration Deputy Chief of Directorate for International Cooperation State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection

Source: European Pravda