Meeting the Regulatory Challenges of Global Trade

June 1, 2016

Brian Isard

On June 3rd I attended on behalf of our members the CFIA Dialogue Session with National Industry Associations in Ottawa. Participating at this event was virtually every association in Canada representing food and plant manufacturers and producers. 

The meeting provided a helpful overview of the challenges and opportunities facing Canadian industry in dealing with the regulatory environment they work in. As an industry engaged in secondary wood processing I found it interesting to look at what other industries in similar processing functions are faced with and how they are responding to these new challenges.

The CFIA has two major policy drivers in how it interacts with industry and administers the regulations managing plant and animal health: product safety and market access.

One overriding theme we heard a lot about is that global supply chains have drastically changed the way both agricultural and forestry products are produced, processed, packaged, distributed, and sold. This new reality means that there is not only an increase in number and type of goods coming into Canada but also what is being exported from Canada. For those companies that are exporting or supplying exporters they face evolving international standards that are increasingly more stringent. Dealing with global supply chains are complex and challenging.

You hear an awful lot about risk mitigation, or as I like to say “preventing catastrophic loss”. We have seen issues related to product safety force wholesale exclusion from markets such as Canadian pork exports from Manitoba last month. For customers and end users of our products, a well prescribed quality assurance system creates confidence in the materials they are purchasing. It all starts with a certification program whether it be for seed, meat, wood or dairy. Participation in certification programs will be major emphasis going forward. Industries and non-registered facilities that forgo certification programs will increasingly be forced to the margins of business and find it difficult to compete.

Both governments and end-users demand guaranteed quality assurance. Inspections in the field and at the processing plant are critical in ensuring that all quality assurance and traceability requirements have been met. Effective inspection systems ensure that the product you are purchasing is what you expect it to be, allowing you to back up your assurances to your trading partners. Industry groups repeatedly emphasized that ensuring consistency and retention of technical knowledge to facilitate regulatory compliance is a critical issue facing the inspection services.

Ensuring market access, or as I like to say “You never want to be refused entry”, is a key concern for groups attending this conference. You never want to be offside with major trading partners so you need to understand where they are going on safety and quality issues. Both Canada and the US are moving to a system of registered producers and manufacturers who will follow an integrated measures and systems approach to ensure safety of manufactured products.

Canada has adopted a systems approach to ensure product safety. We are using the systems approach because countries of “like” processing methodologies that use the same assessment tools enjoy stronger trading relationships. This is the direction the US has been headed for two decades now and as a major trading partner we want to be aligned with how their standards are evolving. Regulations are driven by international standards and within these are micro agreements or micro standards. Increasingly modifying domestic systems in Canada to meet foreign agreements was a common concern heard around the room.  

Permission to access new markets often requires government to government approval processes to resolve scientific and technical issues in order to open the door to new opportunities and greater sales by providing officially recognition of your quality management system.

Taking into account sustainability factors into your decision making, protecting nature and people and shrinking your environmental foot print, were recognized as a priority in decision making. Meeting the challenges of sustainability is difficult for small businesses and industry associations have a critical role to play to ensure that the large industry players are not the only ones who can afford to offer sustainability programs. 

The meeting reaffirmed in my mind that the direction provided by your association leaders has pursued to work in a collaborative manner with the CFIA on regulatory affairs as the Canadian Heat Treated Wood Products Certification Program (HT Program) and adapting to this new regulatory environment has put our industry on a strong footing to meet the challenges of today’s and future markets.

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