Manitoba agriculture minister says canola aid package no substitute for trade
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's agriculture minister says the federal government's new aid plan for canola farmers is no substitute for trade.
Ralph Eichler says Ottawa must work harder to persuade China to reopen its border to Canadian canola, and start by appointing an ambassador to replace John McCallum who was fired in January.
Eichler says governments have to focus on politics and relationships, so that businesses can focus on selling their products.
Citing unproven concerns about pests, China has rejected Canadian canola seed imports in recent months and barred shipments from two of Canada's biggest exporters.
To help farmers cope, the federal government is raising loan limits under an advance payment program and increasing interest-free portions.
Eichler says canola producers need access to the Chinese market and the loan program could be problematic.
"The federal government is allowing this advance to be in place for 18 months before (producers) start having to pay it back, or if they sell the grain before then," Eichler said Wednesday.
"Grain companies make their money marketing grain (and) farmers don't have to sell now. They can wait for the best possible price that they can get. But when that day comes, they may not be able just to dump it on the market, so it puts them all at risk."
Manitoba farm group Keystone Agricultural Producers said raising loan advances to $1 million from $400,000 will help with the uncertainty and stress the canola industry is going through.
"There has already been a $1.30-per-bushel loss on the crop, and that means a $160-million loss to Manitoba farmers, which will drastically affect our provincial economy," said Keystone president Bill Campbell.
Many farmers still have the 2018 crop in their bins and with current prices some stand to lose $50,000 or more, he said.
The same fate awaits this year's canola crop if the dispute with China is not solved before harvest, Campbell said.