China es­ca­lates canola feud: Un­cer­tainty re­mains for Cana­dian farm­ers

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - Prairies - BY ALEKSANDRA SA­GAN ( CP) South­ern Al­berta News­pa­pers

Cana­dian farm­ers are fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture af­ter China es­ca­lated its feud over canola on March 26.

“There is a lot of con­fu­sion amongst farm­ers about what is able to be ex­ported,” said David Quist, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Western Cana­dian Wheat Grow­ers. China blocked canola ship­ments from a sec­ond Canada based pro­ducer on March 26 over al­leged con­tam­i­na­tion is­sues.

A state­ment on China’s Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms web­site said of­fi­cials de­tected sev­eral haz­ardous or­gan­isms in canola ship­ments from Regina-based Viterra Inc. Viterra, which is part of Glen­core Agri­cul­ture, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for comment.

A state­ment on China’s Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cus­toms web­site said of­fi­cials de­tected sev­eral haz­ardous or­gan­isms in canola ship­ments from Regina-based Viterra Inc. Viterra, which is part of Glen­core Agri­cul­ture, did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for comment.

Win­nipeg-based Richard­son In­ter­na­tional Ltd. had its ex­port per­mit re­voked in March due to haz­ardous or­gan­isms al­legedly found in the com­pany’s prod­uct.

Since then, the Canola Coun­cil of Canada said all of its mem­bers have re­ported that Chi­nese im­porters are un­will­ing to pur­chase their prod­ucts.

The re­sult is un­cer­tainty at the cusp of plant­ing sea­son, which be­gins in mid- to late April for many farm­ers.

Quist said farm­ers have a lot of ques­tions: “There­fore, a lot of peo­ple are say­ing: ‘What should I be plant­ing What should I be putting in the ground Is there go­ing to be a mar­ket for my prod­uct by the end of har­vest sea­son when it’s com­ing off the field”

“When China in­jects un­cer­tainty, it makes grow­ers ques­tion whether they should grow food for Chi­nese peo­ple, said Brian Innes, vice-pres­i­dent of pub­lic af­fairs with the coun­cil.

Cana­dian pro­duc­ers will make de­ci­sions that are best for their farm, he said.

One canola farmer, David Reid, told TheCana­dian Press late last week that the re­ports of a pur­chas­ing block by China on Cana­dian canola will make him think about other op­tions.

“We don’t want to grow some­thing we can’t sell,” he said, adding there aren’t many other crop op­tions in the part of Al­berta where his farm is lo­cated. Other op­tions avail­able to him tend to sell for less than canola tra­di­tion­ally has, he said.

Both the wheat and canola groups called on the govern­ment to send a del­e­ga­tion to China to ad­dress the is­sue.

China - a ma­jor mar­ket for Cana­dian canola that ac­counts for about 40 per cent of Canada’s ex­ports of canola seed, oil and meal - is the sole coun­try to raise a tech­ni­cal is­sue with the prod­uct, said Innes.

Au­thor­i­ties in Canada’s other ex­port mar­kets, in­clud­ing the U.S., Mex­ico, the Euro­pean Union, In­dia and Ja­pan, have not raised any is­sues, he said.

“We’re very per­plexed be­cause we’re con­fi­dent in the qual­ity of our Cana­dian canola.”

But China raised a tech­ni­cal con­cern and there needs to be a tech­ni­cal so­lu­tion, he said.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau men­tioned the pos­si­bil­ity of send­ing a del­e­ga­tion, in re­sponse to ques­tions from re­porters dur­ing a stop in Win­nipeg on March 26.

“We’re very much look­ing at the pos­si­bil­ity of send­ing a high level del­e­ga­tion to China,” he said.

“We know that the canola pro­duced here in Canada is top qual­ity, and the over­sight, in­spec­tion and sci­ence that sur­rounds what we do here is top-notch and world-class, and that is cer­tainly some­thing that we are go­ing to con­tinue to im­press upon ... our Chi­nese in­ter­locu­tors on this is­sue.”

Some have sug­gested the canola ban is con­nected to the Cana­dian govern­ment’s de­ci­sion to ar­rest a top Chi­nese tech ex­ec­u­tive in De­cem­ber at the be­hest of the United States. Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties ar­rested Meng Wanzhou, the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer of Chi­nese tech gi­ant Huawei, in Van­cou­ver and the govern­ment has since ap­proved for her ex­tra­di­tion case to pro­ceed.

“But we are tak­ing very se­ri­ously this sit­u­a­tion around canola as well,” said Trudeau.

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