It’s time for government action on the canola file, according to the leader of the opposition.
Canada needs an ambassador in Beijing and should immediately increase the funds available to farmers under the Advance Payments Program (APP), says Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
More than a month has passed since China banned imports of canola seed from two Canadian companies for alleged contamination, he said at a news conference.
“Farmers are looking for help and the government hasn’t lifted a finger,” Scheer said.
The current $400,000 available to growers through the APP is clearly inadequate for producers, who are trying to determine what to plant this year, he said. An increase to $1 million “should have been done already.”
Canada should also launch a challenge to the Chinese action at the World Trade Organization, he said.
“Canada needs to send a message that we won’t back down,” Scheer said. “There have been no consequences for China for its canola ban or mistreating our citizens.”
Responding to Scheer, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claire Bibeau said, “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with Canadian canola producers and farming families. We know that Canada has the best canola in the world and we stand by our robust inspection systems.”
The government and canola industry “are looking for the best ways to ensure the needs of our farmers are met. Business Risk Management programs, as well as the Advance Payment Program, are important tools for farmers that help them through challenging times,” she said.
“I want to reassure farmers that we will have more to say soon. We are going to ensure they have the security they need. As the federal government prepares to roll out its measures to support farmers, we invite ideas and action from the provincial governments to do the same.”
An industry-government canola working group, “will have continued discussions on how best to support the sector, including diversifying into new markets. We will always stand up for Canada’s canola industry and stand by our robust, world-class inspection system.”
Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, noted farmers are currently investing billions of dollars into spring planting for the 2019 canola crop, all while access to the largest market is blocked.
“It’s important that we support farmers so they can pay their bills during this time of uncertainty,” Everson said. “Growers have been clear that expanding the Advance Payments Program would be a helpful tool for them to manage short-term challenges created by market disruptions.”
While canola has an export success story for Canada, the industry is facing unprecedented uncertainty because of significant market access issues in its largest seed market, he said.
“Each day this issue with China drags on means more uncertainty and lost income,” Everson said. “The Canadian government must engage with China to resume trade in canola, Canada’s single largest export to China.”
The canola council also supported the calls made in recent weeks for “the appointment of a Canadian ambassador to China without delay.”
Former ambassador John McCallum was fired from the job three months ago and there has been no indication from the government about a possible replacement.
Everson also supported a challenge of the Chinese action at the WTO.
“Our industry depends on predictable trade based on rules,” he said. “As it is unclear how China’s actions are based on science, calls to launch a complaint at the WTO are well founded. The canola industry supports upholding predictable trade rules by looking at how China’s actions are consistent with its obligations under the WTO.”