Canadian canola made it into the national news as the Canadian Crops Convention got underway in Montreal Tuesday, but it wasn’t for reasons anybody growing or selling Canadian canola would have wanted.
News that China appears to have blocked canola imports from Richardson International sent tremors of anxiety through the farmers, processors, exporters and marketers of the crop. Would this ban be temporary? Would other exporters face the same ban? Would all Canadian canola be blocked from China? The worries laid a carpet of anxiety beneath a conference that is usually filled with optimism and hope for the crop that has become Prairie farmers’ favourite.
While China’s import regulator has not said why it has now decided that Richardson’s canola doesn’t meet the nation’s standards, few at the conference did not at least wonder whether the Canada-China dispute over the extradition of a Huawei executive is playing a role.
“It’s hard not to see the two connected,” said one farmer, mulling over the developments.
Canola Council of Canada President Jim Everson was cautious with his response to the news about the Richardson ban, which was reported early Tuesday by Reuters news agency.
“There’s nothing that is clear evidence that it’s related to those geopolitical issues,” said Everson.
But he acknowledged that Canadian canola sales to China had appeared to be slowing in recent months, which is a worrisome development.
“There is a slower trade, so we’re concerned about that,” said Everson.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, was scheduled to speak to the Canadian Crops Convention Wednesday.
Everson said the canola industry is hoping to see good relations return to the China-Canada government relationship, since trade with China often involves a political component.
“They tend to want to have government-to-government discussions,” said Everson.
However the present problem with Richardson’s exports resolves, and in whatever way the tussle over Huawei and the Meng Wanzhou extradition works out, Canada’s canola trade with China is unlikely to disappear permanently, Everson said.
“The fundamentals of the trade are very strong,” said Everson, noting China’s growing demand for canola oil and meal.
But with about 40 percent of Canada’s canola exports now destined for China, any interruption would cause canola to back-up onto the Prairies as a new crop season approaches. Prices have already fallen well beneath levels of the early winter, leaving many farmers with much crop to move for now unprofitable prices.