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Canada to set up working group for China canola push

China asked to receive technical delegation

carr bibeau
International Trade Minister Jim Carr (at podium) and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announce plans for a technical delegation and stakeholder working group to address China's import bans on Canadian canola. (AAFC video screengrab via Facebook Live)

Canola industry stakeholders and provincial officials are to join federal officials in a co-ordinated push to resolve China’s issues with Canadian canola, cabinet ministers said Monday.

Speaking Monday in Ottawa, Canada’s Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr said they’ve set up a new working group including representatives from the Canola Council of Canada, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Richardson International, Viterra, and the federal, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan governments.

The group, Bibeau said, “will ensure a co-ordinated and collaborative approach towards resolving this market access issue” and will “explore alternative markets, both for the short and long term.”

Canola exporters for several months reported customs clearance problems with their shipments to China, but those problems solidified last month as China announced it had cancelled the canola export registrations for Canadian grain handlers Richardson International and Viterra.

Not long after the block on Richardson was made public, the Canola Council said China’s block appeared to be in place on shipments from all Canadian exporters.

Following up on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement last week that Canada would look at sending a technical delegation to China to pursue the matter, Bibeau said Monday she has written her Chinese counterpart, Han Changfu, and requested to send such a delegation.

The delegation, Bibeau said, would be led by Dr. Siddika Mithani, president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and would include CFIA’s team of plant health experts “and the support of technical experts from the Prairie provinces.”

Meanwhile, Bibeau said, federal plant health experts “are engaged and exchanging technical information with Customs China, who have agreed to continue discussions in the near future.”

Resolving the China export issue is “essential for our farmers and their families, for our agricultural industry and communities, and for the Canadian economy as a whole,” Carr said.

“If there is a problem with our shipments, show us the science, so our skilled and dedicated industry leaders may rectify it.”

As for the issue of exploring alternative markets, Carr noted Canada is pursuing new markets via its trade pacts with the U.S. and Mexico, the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries, and by “initiating discussions” with the ASEAN bloc in Southeast Asia, which also includes Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

From the farmer perspective, Bibeau acknowledged canola growers have “concerns about seeding, storage, and prices” and said the government will “continue exploring the set of current risk management and support tools to ensure that they can respond to this issue as it continues to develop.”

Following Monday’s announcement, Canola Council president Jim Everson said the new working group “will ensure that all Government of Canada resources support resolving China’s concerns.

“We’re very confident in the quality of our canola and want to resolve the difference of opinion between Canada and China as quickly as possible,” he added.

Sending a high-level technical delegation to China “would provide the opportunity to get officials together face-to-face, to share information and drive a solution,” the CCGA said Monday in a separate statement.

Conservative agriculture critic Luc Berthold said Monday on Twitter he was preparing to seek an emergency debate on the canola issue but was shut out from doing so by Liberal MPs in a vote on proceedings. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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