Canada-China dispute creates 'very stressful' time for canola farmers
Published Sunday, May 5, 2019 12:48PM EDT
Canada’s ongoing dispute with China is leaving canola producers feeling anxious as seeding season kicks off.
China recently blocked Canadian canola shipments in suspected retaliation over the detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Several days prior to that, China suspended the export permits of two Canadian pork exporters, apparently over package mislabelling.
The Canadian Agriculture Federation represents 200,000 farmers, and its president Mary Robinson said farmers are feeling anxious and unsure whether they should even bother planting the crop this spring.
“So far it’s had a negative impact, particularly on our canola producers in Western Canada,” she told CTV News Channel Sunday. “As producers head into this time when they’re seeding crop, it’s very stressful.”
“They’re having to make decisions of how much crop to put into the group, and how much -- and with the uncertainty of market access, it’s creating a lot of stress [and] a lot of uncertainty,” the CFA president said.
China used to buy approximately 40 per cent of Canada’s exported Canola—the equivalent to $2.7 billion last year, Robinson said. “So not having access to these markets has created a lot of uncertainty and stress for canola producers,” she added.
In a survey released earlier last month, Statistics Canada said it expects 21.3 million acres of canola will be seeded in 2019, down 6.6 per cent from last year, thanks to the trade dispute.
“To mitigate impact, there’s not a lot we can do at farm level,” Robinson said.
Canola prices have also dropped since the dispute began and the federal government has pledged to try to reduce to the blow to Canadian farmers feeling the brunt.
Robinson said her group was encouraged at the federal government promising to give canola farmers financial aid to lessen the impact of China's decision to ban their products.
The government has proposed changes to a program that advances farmers money against the expected value of their crops -- by raising loan limits to $1 million from $400,000; and raising the portion that will be interest-free to $500,000 from $100,000.
“These are welcome but unfortunately it’s a bit of a Band-Aid solution,” Robinson said. “We need government to take a longer [term] view of this and come up with more permanent tools that we can use to protect Canadian producers in these times of uncertainty.”
She cited Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau who said the government has started a working group designed to hear viewpoints from groups like the CFA. “They are trying relentlessly to have communication with China on this issue,” she said.
But Robinson urged Canada to finally fill in the role ambassador to China soon in order to help foster and fast-track the ongoing dispute between the two countries.