Sask. canola farmers find themselves in middle of Canada-China dispute
China is stopping shipment from canola supplier, which could have major repercussions for Sask. producers
A diplomatic row between Canada and China has hit home for Saskatchewan canola farmers, who may feel the brunt of the latest salvo.
China has cancelled Winnipeg-based agricultural handler Richardson International's registration, which means the company is not allowed to export canola seeds to the country.
That could have dire consequences for canola farmers here.
China is Saskatchewan's No. 1 customer for canola seed, with about $2 billion in trade.
"It could have a huge implication [for the provincial economy]," said Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Dave Marit, who is also a canola producer.
"China is a big market and a big player," Marit said. "Hopefully we can come to some [resolution] and some conclusion to this real quickly."
Canada exported more than $5-billion worth of canola last year, and almost half of it was destined for the Chinese market — almost five million metric tonnes worth, according to the Canadian Canola Growers Association.
Marit said he has talked with his federal counterpart, Marie-Claude Bibeau, and he said she's made resolving the issue a priority.
"It's a federal Canadian issue, and we just said that we would work with her and help … in any way we can."
'Of the utmost importance for our province': Moe
The news is the latest issue stemming from tension between Canada and China, which began when Canadian officials detained Meng Wanzhou, vice-president of Chinese technology firm Huawei, at the request of U.S. tax authorities as she was boarding a flight in Vancouver.
Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei's founder, was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, while in transit through Vancouver to Mexico and South America. She is now involved in an extradition case and personal litigation against Canadian border officials, the RCMP and the attorney general of Canada.
In question period at the Saskatchewan Legislature Tuesday, Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili asked Premier Scott Moe what steps the government is taking to ensure Saskatchewan producers are able to get their canola into the Chinese market.
Moe said besides talking to the federal government, his Saskatchewan Party government is reaching out to the Canadian ambassador's office in China, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Richardson International.
"This is of the utmost importance for our province and our agricultural community," Moe said.
Marit said most farmers have already made their seeding plans for this year.
"Let's hope that we can find a real quick solution to this.… If we can, then it's not going to impact the markets and it's not going to impact that much decision-making."
With files from Pete Evans, Scott Peterson, Karen Pauls and Katie Simpson