December 10, 2019

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Trudeau considers sending canola delegation to China

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the federal government is taking its canola spat with China "very seriously," and is considering dispatching a delegation of diplomats in hopes of quelling an ongoing dispute over one of Western Canada's main exports.

Last week, the Canola Council of Canada said it appeared China was ready to block all canola seed imports from Canada, an action widely viewed as retaliation for Ottawa’s arrest last fall of Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of United States tax authorities.

China blocks canola seed from Viterra

China has blocked imports of canola seed from a second major Canadian exporter.

China's general administration of customs announced Tuesday on its website that its officials have detected several hazardous organisms in shipments of canola from Viterra Inc.

Shipments from Viterra have been blocked to prevent the introduction of pests to China, it said.

China has blocked imports of canola seed from a second major Canadian exporter.

China's general administration of customs announced Tuesday on its website that its officials have detected several hazardous organisms in shipments of canola from Viterra Inc.

Shipments from Viterra have been blocked to prevent the introduction of pests to China, it said.

Viterra did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Chinese government gave the same reason for blocking canola shipped by Richardson International Ltd. of Winnipeg.

The Canola Council of Canada has reported that Chinese companies have stopped buying canola seed from Canadian producers.

China accounts for about 40 per cent of Canada's exports of canola seed, oil and meal.

— The Canadian Press

Regina-based Viterra Inc., a subsidiary of Glencore Agriculture, was the latest producer to fall victim to China's apparent canola ban Tuesday.

China's general administration of customs announced on its website officials had detected several hazardous organisms in Viterra's shipments of canola.

The move came three weeks after China suspended Winnipeg-based Richardson International's export permit, citing "dangerous pests" in its canola shipments as well.

China accounts for about 40 per cent of Canada's exports of canola seed, oil and meal.

"Obviously, we have seen a certain amount of challenges in our relationship with China over some diplomatic issues and, indeed, the rule of law, which we always stand up for. We stand up for Canadians," Trudeau told reporters gathered in Winnipeg, during a visit Tuesday to the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology.

"But we are taking very seriously this situation around canola as well."

China's government has blocked imports of canola seed from major Canadian exporter, Viterra Inc. stating that their officials had detected several hazardous organisms in shipments of its canola.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/JEFF MCINTOSH

China's government has blocked imports of canola seed from major Canadian exporter, Viterra Inc. stating that their officials had detected several hazardous organisms in shipments of its canola.

The prime minister spoke Monday with Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, and discussed the situation Tuesday with officials from Richardson International, including chief executive officer Hartley Richardson.

Richardson wouldn't comment on the meeting, nor would the prime minister answer reporters' questions about the rendezvous.

Trudeau tweeted, however, it was a "good meeting" with International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr and Richardson, where they talked about "what we're doing to support Canadian canola."

"We will always stand up for Canadian industries and workers," the prime minister tweeted.

Trudeau also discussed the possibility of sending a delegation to China, something Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler also suggested Monday.

"There is significant interest in sending a high-level delegation to China to talk about the extraordinary work that we do in terms of oversight inspection and the science around ensuring the safety of and the quality of everything Canadian that Canada exports," the prime minister said.

Brian Innes, vice-president of the Canola Council of Canada, told the Free Press the association is "really perplexed" by China's actions.

"We don't understand how the quality of our canola can change between December and now. We don't understand China's concerns when every other country in the world is happy with our canola," Innes said.

"We need our technical officials to resolve it as quickly as possible," he added, noting the council supports Trudeau sending delegates abroad.

Bottles of Canola Harvest brand canola oil, manufactured by Canadian agribusiness firm Richardson International, on the shelf of a grocery store in Beijing, China.

(AP PHOTO/MARK SCHIEFELBEIN)

Bottles of Canola Harvest brand canola oil, manufactured by Canadian agribusiness firm Richardson International, on the shelf of a grocery store in Beijing, China.

Chuck Fossay, president of the Manitoba Canola Growers Association, said the trade talks aren't yet influencing the growing intentions of producers.

In talking with his neighbours near Starbuck, and with other Manitoba farmers and seed dealers, Fossay said no one is avoiding growing canola or cutting back on acreage.

Farmers have to continually rotate crops between cereals and oilseeds or else weeds will build up resistance to specific herbicides.

"There aren't many crops farmers (who) want to replace their canola... because it's still our best-paying crop," Fossay said in an interview.

That's despite a $20 per tonne (or 50-cent per bushel) drop in prices over the past few weeks since China started blocking Canada's shipments.

The canola price is now just under $10 a bushel, Fossay said, noting a 50-cent fluctuation is "not unusual" and won't cause widespread panic.

He also noted China is still purchasing canola oil and canola meal.

Because Manitoba has several canola crushers either in the province or in nearby North Dakota and Saskatchewan, virtually no raw seed from the province goes to China. Manitoba canola should not get backed up because of China's actions, Fossay said.

— with files from The Canadian Press

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislature reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Read full biography

History

Updated on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 10:47 AM CDT: corrects Eichler's name

11:07 AM: Adds video

6:22 PM: Full write through.

6:50 PM: Adds photos.

March 27, 2019 at 9:58 AM: Added Bill Redekop to byline.

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