OTTAWA, ONTARIO, CANADA — The government of Canada and the canola industry on April 1 formed a working group to resolve the ongoing trade issues with China over the commodity.

The Industry-Government Canola Working Group will be a forum where industry can share information for a collaborative approach toward ending restricted access to China. In March, China suspended the license for exports of canola from first Richardson International and then Viterra and has increased inspections on all Canadian canola seed.

The group also will explore alternative markets for canola. 

“Canadian canola is top quality, and the science and inspection system that supports our exports is world-class,” said Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in a speech on April 1.

China has said it revoked the licenses because of pest concerns. In addition to forming the working group, Canadian officials said they would like to send a technical delegation to China.

“On the weekend, I sent a letter to my Chinese counterpart, requesting to send a delegation led by the president of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, along with her team of plant health experts, and the support of technical experts from the Prairie provinces,” Bibeau said. “In the meantime, our plant health experts are engaged and exchanging technical information with Customs China, who have agreed to continue discussions in the near future.”

The working group will be co-chaired by the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. It will include representatives from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Richardson, Viterra, and the Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan governments.

“We’re pleased that the government has recognized the seriousness of the issue and taken action,” said Jim Everson, president of the CCC. “As a group, we’ll be meeting right away to continue resolving the issue and to help the sector navigate the uncertainty it is causing.

“We’re very confident in the quality of our canola and want to resolve the difference of opinion between Canada and China as quickly as possible.”

In announcing the working group, Canadian officials again voiced their support for canola and said resolving the trade issue is a top priority. China is a top destination for Canadian canola, accounting for about 40% of its exports of that commodity. Total value of canola exports to China is estimated at C$4.4 billion, according to the CCC.

“Our farmers make calculated decisions on what they will plant each spring as early as harvest time,” said Jim Carr, minister of International Trade Diversification. “Those decisions impact not only next year’s crop, but the one after that and, often, even the one after that. A stable, predictable marketplace is a very important piece of that puzzle.”

Carr also said new markets, and expansion of existing markets, is critical for Canadian canola. This is happening with new trade agreements with Europe, Asia-Pacific nations, and through the new NAFTA, he said.

“For Canadian exporters, the markets opened by the Asia-Pacific trade deal alone are expected to result in $780 million in new canola exports per year,” Carr said. “I am also having conversations with my counterparts from other economies who currently import Canadian canola, to discuss the possibilities of increasing those volumes.”