New light shed on Chinese canola dispute

Much of the information received through a federal access to information request has been made available to the public by the time the request is fulfilled.

However, there are sometimes interesting tidbits of information that haven’t been redacted or made available in other ways.

For example, an Agriculture Canada official wrote an email to high-level government bureaucrats on March 1 concerning an urgent report the department received from the Canadian Embassy in China regarding the suspension of canola exports from Richardson and the rejection of a canola oil shipment.

The short email shows it was a Cargill shipment that had been rejected due to an alleged presence of chemicals, and that Richardson pulling out of the Canola Council of Canada has affected how the government works with the industry.

“Please note: Richardson International has withdrawn from the Canola Council of Canada. Information relating to a particular company, such as Richardson and Cargill, should not be shared with outside parties such as the canola council to respect business confidentiality,” said the email.

It appears Richardson leaving the canola council modified the government’s ability to keep all Canadian players on the same page in regards to the trade disruption with China.

In a separate briefing note prepared for Agriculture Minster Marie-Claude Bibeau’s March 5 meeting with Curt Vossen, chief executive officer of Richardson, a response was prepared in case she was asked why the Canadian Food Inspection Agency didn’t respond to Customs China’s notifications of non-compliance, some of which were issued almost two months before China suspended Richardson’s registration for canola seed exports.

“The CFIA acknowledged China’s concerns with the presence of weed seeds in canola shipments from Canada in a letter dated Jan. 16, 2019, and proposed to address the issue in a technical discussion in Beijing. China did not reply to this letter.”

Interestingly, absent in all the talk from Canadian officials about having science-based discussions with China is that China has been ignoring such talks since the middle of January.

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