From forest products to the future potential of liquefied natural gas, B.C.'s natural resource sector has long looked to Asia as a major market.
Now Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris wants to add beef to that export list.
Morris believes that the Prince George airport is perfectly situated to take advantage of the industry with its proximity to cattle ranches in the Cariboo and the north, along with its capacity to handle large cargo jets.
"It's an obvious way to go for us, we've got the third largest airport [runway] in Canada," Morris said. "The development of industrial areas around the airport is in its infancy so it's a prime time for some new venture to step up to the plate and have a look at it."
Morris broached the topic earlier this week in the provincial legislature during a debate around a motion regarding ways to grow the provincial economy. He is hoping to become a "provincial champion" for the idea and plans to work with cabinet members and the British Columbia Cattleman's Association to find out what needs to happen to make increased beef exports to Asia a reality.
"Prince George is in close proximity to some of the largest beef producers in the province and they have access to a great highway system - north, south, east, west - into Prince George as well as rail opportunities," Morris said. "I think it's a great, new economic opportunity to grow B.C.'s economy, but I think it can also strengthen the B.C. cattle producers' opportunities."
According to the B.C. Cattleman's Association, most of the cattle ranchers in B.C. produce calves that are shipped to feedlots and slaughtered in other locations, primarily in Alberta. Most of the resulting beef products are consumed in Canada, but frozen meat is shipped to places like Korea, Japan and Taiwan.
Morris said by targeting China in addition to the existing Asian clients, the amount of beef headed overseas could double or even triple.
He said that transporting beef by air from Prince George makes sense because cargo planes shipping Asian goods to Canada often don't fly back east at full capacity. City leaders, including Mayor Shari Green and Initiatives Prince George CEO Heather Oland, have touted the benefits for partially empty planes heading from North America to Asia to use Prince George as both a refueling stop and as a place to load more perishable goods for export.
"If we can put a full load on a cargo plane going back to China or back to Asia, I think it will become economically feasible to ship [beef] by air," Morris said.
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