A policy decision that could disrupt Canadian pulse shipments to India is once again coming down to the wire.
“We have never been as concerned, but we have reason to be optimistic,” said Gord Bacon, chief executive officer of Pulse Canada.
India has stated that as of March 31 it will no longer provide exemptions allowing pulse shipments to be fumigated with methyl bromide in India. They will have to be fumigated at the port of export.
The new policy threatens to disrupt more than $1 billion worth of Canadian pea and lentil exports to India because it is often too cold in Canada to fumigate.
Canada has submitted a data package to India showing that the stem and bulb nematode it is concerned about isn’t found here.
Canada is requesting that India allow the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to issue phytosanitary certificates assuring cargoes meet India’s requirements rather than relying on fumigation.
As a bare minimum, Canada would like India to provide another six month exemption to its fumigation policy while it mulls over the data package.
There had been no response from India as of March 13. Bacon worries the decision will come down to the last minute like it did in September, causing great consternation to the pulse trade.
However, he remains optimistic that a solution is coming because Canada’s agriculture and trade ministers have discussed the issue with their counterparts during recent trade missions to India.
The president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the high commissioner of Canada in India have also been involved in the discussions.
Bacon said he is “very, very satisfied” with the response of the Canadian government involving such high-ranking officials.
“In my experience of 20 years, it really has been an unprecedented problem and the response has been comprehensive,” he said.
“They have been comprehensive in explaining Canada’s plant protection system and explaining the urgency and importance of this to both farmers and trade.”
Guy Gallant, a spokesperson for federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, said the minister continues to discuss the issue with his Indian counterpart.
“This issue is a priority of our government. We understand the importance of a timely resolution on this matter,” he said in an email.
Bacon said Canadian exporters are anxiously awaiting India’s decision.
“This has obviously put a damper on any new (crop) business,” he said. “From a farm side, undoubtedly some market price pressure is going to happen when 40 percent of your yellow pea market and 40 percent of your red lentil market is in some uncertainty.”