By Top Crop Manager
In response to market access concerns with China over canola, Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau announced on April 1 during a press conference that Canada will be creating a canola working group and has requested to send a high-level technical delegation to China.
The press conference was in response to China’s license suspensions of two Canadian companies and increased inspections on all canola seed due to the alleged discovery of harmful organisms in recent shipments. Canola meal and oil have not been affected.
The delegation will be led by the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, along with a team of plant health experts, and the support of technical experts from the Prairie provinces. During the conference, it was noted a letter has gone out and conversations have been made, but there is no update on whether China has accepted Canada’s request to send this delegation. “In the meantime, our plant health experts are engaged and exchanging technical information with Customs China, who have agreed to continue discussions in the near future,” Bibeau stated.
In addition to the delegation, the Canadian government has set up a working group that includes the Canola Council of Canada, the Canola Growers Association, canola exporters Richardson International and Viterra, and representatives from the federal government and the Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments.
The group will “ensure a co-ordinated and collaborative approach towards resolving this market access issue” and “explore alternative markets” for the short and long term.
“We stand firmly with you, and resolving this issue is a top priority for our Government,” Bibeau said in an attempt to reassure Canadian canola farmers. She acknowledged canola farmers’ concerns about seeding, storage and prices, and reminded producers they have the Government’s risk management and support tools at their disposal, such as AgriStability and the Advance Payments Program which allows advances of up to $400,000 for producers.
Minister of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr reinforced the importance of a stable predictable marketplace to help producers and advocated for a “science-based solution.” Carr reflected that this is not the only time Canada has had an issue with purity in canola with China, and said, “we’ve been able to work it out before when we keep it at a science-based level.”
The previous dispute occurred in August 2016, where Canada and China disputed the acceptable level of “dockage” – or foreign material such as weeds and other crops – in Canada’s canola exports to China.
The Canola Council has been working with the Government of Canada on market access issues affecting canola seed trade with China over the last several weeks and welcomed today’s news.
“We’re pleased that the government has recognized the seriousness of the issue and taken action,” said Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council. “As a group, we’ll be meeting right away to continue resolving the issue and to help the sector navigate the uncertainty it is causing.”
China has been a major market for Canadian canola, accounting for approximately 40 per cent of all canola seed, oil and meal exports. Canola seed exports to China were worth $2.7 billion in 2018. The council stated that demand has been very strong until recent disruptions.