Members of the International Beef Alliance (IBA), comprising the cattle producer organizations from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, and the United States held our annual conference via webinar on the 8th and 9th of December. Together, farmers and ranchers in these countries provide 47 per cent of global beef production and account for 66 per cent of all beef exports and are responsible for providing millions of jobs.

While 2021 has presented significant challenges to global beef supplies due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated shipping disruption, beef producers in IBA member countries have demonstrated considerable resilience, acting quickly to adapt to the COVID-19 environment to ensure continuity of trade and the steady supply of beef to consumers during this difficult period. Consumers have also responded in that we have seen a significant shift back to beef due to its naturalness, providence, safety, and the unique nutritional attributes that are well evidenced contribute to health and wellness.

The production and export of beef provides global consumers with greater access to safe and nutritious food while improving the livelihood of cattle producers. For rural areas there is a significant contribution for the economy and maintenance and evolution as a community besides providing jobs directly and indirectly, also contributing with elements to mitigate climate change. The IBA continues to advocate for a science-based approach to trade standards.

Throughout 2021 IBA members have continued to meet monthly to discuss challenges and opportunities, including supply chain disruption, production, and sustainability goals.

IBA members played a critical role in the lead up to high profile global forums, championing the case that all conversations on food systems should be driven by robust science. In the lead up to the UN Food Systems Summit, IBA members advocated for the importance of sustainable beef production and the role international trade has in providing nutrition and food security to countries, to meet consumer needs around the world. The UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), held recently in Glasgow, was another prominent forum for beef producers – with governments from around the world coming together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

These international forums highlight how global climate change policy continues to evolve and the importance for IBA members to contribute to the sustainability conversation in a transparent manner and science and technology-based approach. The IBA maintains that there is a need for a better understanding of the contribution of the agriculture sector to managing and mitigating overall agricultural emissions, carbon capture and balance and in particular, recognizing the unique differences of biogenic methane emissions compared to those originating from fossil fuel sources.

IBA members are concerned that consensus has not been found for WTO reform and urge all WTO members to work swiftly towards a resolution. Global beef trade relies on trade standards that support the free flow of products between countries, and a functioning WTO is imperative to this goal. In this regard, IBA members remain concerned that there are barriers to trade that are not based on internationally recognised scientific standards and we urge all countries to review standards that impact trade and ensure that they are consistent with international obligations and are based on rigorous science.

A functioning WTO will strengthen international food security and promote agricultural sustainability.