Weeds emerge as trade barrier

In a world getting touchier about trade access, weed seeds are becoming an issue.

That spreading concern is something Canada’s canola industry is grappling with as it keeps a steady eye on the elephant in the canola market.

“Weed seeds around the world are becoming more of a trade barrier, or a vexatious issue,” Curtis Rempel, Canola Council of Canada vice-president, said during the Canola Discovery Forum.

Trade access to countries like Peru, Vietnam and China have been threatened by concerns over weed seeds in crop shipments, even though small amounts of dockage are an ever-present element of the global grain trade.

Canada itself has been grappling with weed seed concerns in imported canola seed, with jimsonweed occasionally appearing in prairie fields after canola seed has been planted.

Rempel said the canola industry thinks phytosanitary standards need to be carefully thought out and not thoughtlessly imposed because they govern an industry existing in the real world.

“The policies that we do develop around the movement of weed seeds, and phytosanitary standards, are important because we bring in a lot of seed for canola production,” said Rempel.

“We do have, we think, very good (phytosanitary) measures in place.”

Dealing with overseas weed concerns is a growing issue for the industry.

That’s especially a concern with China, which has caused major disruptions with Canadian access to its market because of its apparent concerns with blackleg.

In 2009, China restricted imports over a general concern with blackleg, and more recently temporarily blocked Canadian canola shipments over concerns that dockage could bring in blackleg to China’s oilseed rape crops.

That 2016 dispute was addressed with a Canada-China agreement for Canada to carefully monitor and manage dockage in canola. That agreement expires in 2020 and the industry is getting ready to convince China that dockage poses no risk and Canada now has the data to support that claim.

“We can state with unequivocal uncertainty that dockage poses no risk in terms of introduction of blackleg from canola shipments,” said Rempel.

Canada’s canola exports to China are currently blocked for other, mostly political reasons, but the dockage and weed seed issues are closer to the sort of technical issues the industry is able to address.

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