By Tim Kalinowski
The fallout of China’s recent decision to ban Canadian canola exports continues to spread as it was announced at the end of March China had added Viterra to its list of blacklisted Canadian companies.
The Asian nation had previously banned Richardson International from importing, and the Canola Council of Canada confirmed China was not presently offering any new contracts to Canadian canola importers after its current orders are filled.
“We’re disappointed that differing viewpoints cannot be resolved quickly,” said Jim Everson, president of the CCC. “Under the circumstances, Canadian canola seed exporters who normally ship to China have no alternative but to supply customers in other countries who value high quality Canadian canola.”
Everson rejected China’s claims the quality of Canadian canola was anything but of the highest standard.
“Canadian canola is of the highest quality because of our world-class quality assurance systems,” he said. “We have a long-standing history of delivering on quality and reliability. We will continue to provide our customers with high quality canola and promote stable trade based on science.”
Kevin Serfas, a major canola producer in Lethbridge County and vice-chair of Alberta Canola, said it was premature to state the current dispute is merely China’s retaliation for Canada’s impending extradition of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou to the U.S. for possible trial, even though others have made that claim.
“At the moment any links between the Huawei executive and this ban on canola is all speculation,” he said. “From everything the Chinese have told us is the issue is all about a phyto-sanitary concern. We continue to work with the Chinese to understand what those concerns are and address them.”
Serfas did acknowledge the serious impact of the Chinese ban on the Canadian canola industry, whether politically motivated or not.
“When your largest buyer of canola stops, it is a very large cause for concern,” he said. “It has got me thinking, and I’m sure it has most canola farmers thinking if this isn’t resolved, what’s our appetite for risk?
“Do we put it in anyway, and hope by the time harvest comes this is rectified? That appetite will be different on each farm.”
Serfas still planned to plant plenty of canola this year anyway, but admitted he may scale back acres somewhat from what he had previously planned to seed.Similarly, bee pollinators in the province dependent on the canola industry for an important part of their yearly income will likely not be changing their schedules and plans for this year, stated Alberta Beekeepers Commission executive director Connie Phillips.
“We are not anticipating it is going to have an impact this year with regard to bees,” she said. “Most of the contracts are signed already and we don’t see any loss within the next year.”
Phillips confirmed about a dozen honey producers in the province she knew of rely heavily on hybrid-canola pollination as part of their business plan, but she feels they will all take a wider view of their industry which goes beyond this current dispute with China, which mainly takes Canadian raw seed to crush for their own domestic market. The current dispute with China, she felt, will shift emphasis to more crushing and other value added processes here at home.
“I think for the whole of agriculture industry,” she said, “the canola that is grown here in the province and across the Prairies, most of it is crushed here— so all the value-added products related to canola will still get produced and crushed on the Prairies.”