Concerns and frustrations increase for local canola producers as disputes between Canada and China result in a third Canadian company being red-flagged for canola exports.
The first company, Richardson International based out of Winnipeg, were suspended for canola export to China for what they cited as, quality concerns due to pests found in the canola. Viterra, based out of Regina, was not far behind with the same scenario, with Chinese officials suspending licences for both companies.
Reports came out yesterday stating that a third, unnamed company, has also received a non-compliance notice for quality concerns.
As China accounts for approximately 40 per cent of Canada’s canola export, the suspensions and ongoing tensions regarding the unresolved issues will not take long to create a significant impact on the industry.
Local producer, Kevin Stevens, who farms in the Harris and Milden area, said canola pricing has already taken a hit.
“It’s (canola prices) dropped a lot since the initial news came out that they blocked that Richardson shipment,” said Stevens. “We are just keeping our fingers crossed it gets resolved sooner rather than later, it’s ridiculous what’s happening because this downward pressure on the market has more to do with politics than the actual canola, and it’s going to affect our bottom line in a big big way”.
Stevens shared that with the drought last year their total canola acres is already being reduced by 500 and they are still making a decision on a couple quarter sections due to the political issues at hand, however, he said, “you can’t chase the market too bad”.
He did say though that this is obviously a hot topic among farmers, he has spoken with other long-time canola producers who are considering not growing any canola this year.
Another local canola producer,Tyler Fensom from the Rosetown area, shared a similar testimony.
“There’s big concerns of whether we are going to be able to sell our canola, they’re (China) are a huge market for us and, for me, it’s a lot of political games is what it is,” said Fensom.
Fensom said about 25 per cent of his crops are canola and at this point he is not scaling back due to the current issues and is hoping for a resolution, as Stevens said, sooner rather than later. Other canola producers that he has spoken with however, did state that they were considering their options for this year with other crops besides canola.
With the first suspension only happening just over a month ago, Fensom shared that it is too much of a snap-decision for his operation at this point to pull the plug on his canola crops; If a resolution is made in the near future, he felt switching crops would be a decision he would regret.
In a speech by Marie-Claude Bibeau, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, she stated “We understand that farmers are concerned, and we hear them. We know just how important canola is to their livelihoods and to the economy of the Prairies and all of Canada”.
She said she send a letter to her Chinese counterpart over the weekend, requesting to send a delegation led by the President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, along with her team of health experts, and the support of technical experts from the Prairie provinces.
In addition to a working group comprised of the Canola Council, the Canola Growers Association, Richardson, Viterra and representatives from the federal government, as well as, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba governments; Exploration of alternative markets is on their to-do list, for both the short and long-term.