Calgary

New rules have pulse producers worried about getting product to market

Regulators in India now want pulse crops treated with pesticides before they've left Canada, instead of after they've shipped, which is how it's been done for more than a decade.

Crops destined for India now have to be treated with pesticides before they leave Canada

New rules require pulse crops to be treated with pesticides before they leave Canada destined for India. Local producers are hoping those rules will be relaxed. (Wikimedia/Creative Commons)

Canadian producers of peas, lentils and chickpeas — also known as pulses — are worried about getting their product to their largest market in India.

A new rule imposed by that country on all pulse imports has some local producers feeling anxious.

The issue is about fumigation.

Regulators in India now want pulse crops treated with pesticides before they've left Canada, instead of after they've shipped, which is how it's been done for more than a decade.

Gord Kurbis with Pulse Canada says the new rule isn't necessary, and hopes India will review scientific evidence supporting his stance.

"One pest of concern, and the key pest of concern to India, we don't actually have on pulse exports from Canada," he said.

Kurbis also says the new required pesticide isn't effective in the cold — typical of Canadian prairie winters where most pulses are produced.

"The type of fumigation India is proposing is actually not possible to do in Canada during the winter," he said.

Last year, roughly one-third of all Canadian pulse crops were sent to India, making the stakes high for the country's estimated 12,000 pulse farms. Canada shipped $1.5 billion worth of peas and lentils to India in 2015.

"That's why we're very concerned," said Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada.

The federal government submitted documents to India in December, pressing its case that the risks of Canadian pulse crops carrying pests is minimal because of the winter climate.

"India's message has become much more firm in terms of what their intention is at the end of March, which is why we're much more concerned now," he said.

Will Van Roessel is a pulse seed grower from east of Lethbridge.

He's concerned losing such a large market could cause a drop in value.

"If the price of peas or lentils is reduced then there would be less farmers wanting to grow those crops this year so there would likely be less farmers interested in buying new seed," he said.

But Canadian producers have asked for an exemption and and hope to hear from Indian regulators within the next few weeks.

With files from the CBC's Stephanie Wiebe and The Canadian Press

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