Industry wants Trudeau to talk pulses in India

Canada’s pulse industry hopes tariff and non-tariff trade barriers are on the agenda when the prime minister visits India next month.

Justin Trudeau plans to lead the Canadian delegation on a state visit from Feb. 17- 23 at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

As part of the visit, Trudeau is expected to participate in several business discussions to promote trade and investment between the two countries.

Pulse Canada president Gord Bacon hopes the prime minister will raise some of the pulse industry’s concerns over India’s recent protectionist actions during those discussions.

A spokesperson for the federal government would not confirm whether the pulse industry’s concerns are on the agenda, but he said the government is working on the file.

“We will continue to work together with our farmers and colleagues to closely monitor developments, determine the implications and raise our serious concerns with all of the appropriate Indian authorities,” said Guy Gallant, spokesperson with Agriculture Canada.

Approximately $1 billion worth of annual pea and lentil exports have come to a grinding halt in the wake of India applying a 50 percent import duty to peas and a 30 percent duty on lentils and chickpeas.

The pulse sector has met with Canadian government officials on a number of occasions to express its concerns with India’s actions.

“We have had very good signals back that this is the most important issue,” said Bacon.

The industry wants India to respect World Trade Organization rules stipulating that new import duties should not be applied to goods en route to India.

India did not abide by those rules late last year when it applied the pulse duties, leaving some shippers with the unenviable task of having to reroute product to other markets.

“When you have boats on the water and duties go up they are exempt. That’s the minimum. That’s where you start the discussion,” said Bacon.

But the discussion also needs to address other concerns.

Pulse Canada wants India to develop a transparent system that will help Canadian farmers and traders anticipate changes to India’s import duties.

Bacon would like to know what the relationship is between India’s market support prices, commercial prices and the country’s duties.

“The transparency and the process is to me very important because now it allows you to take future positions based on what you would see happening in the marketplace in terms of available stocks and prices,” he said.

Australia’s federal agriculture minister recently announced the country had come to an agreement with India regarding the transparency issue.

“I’m pleased to get a commitment our grain, chickpea and pulse farmers will receive advance notice of any tariff changes in future,” David Littleproud said in a news release.

“Growers invest when they have certainty and we thank India for providing greater certainty.”

Bacon doesn’t know if this is the same type of deal the Canadian pulse sector is seeking because the details are scant.

“I don’t know there’s enough information to really understand the degree of value it would provide,” he said.

In addition to increased transparency on import duties, Pulse Canada is seeking a return to science-based plant protection policies, instead of using them as an impediment to trade.

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