China’s ban on Canadian canola seed is something JoAnne Buth, a former president of the Canola Council of Canada, has been expecting since 2009.
“In September 2009 we managed to negotiate with the Chinese to keep the border open on this whole issue,” Buth said in an interview May 22 as she prepared to retire as CEO of the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi). “It has been kept open until now. It’s always an opportunity for China to control things. It always was, so we knew this would likely happen at some point.”
China claimed in 2009 Canadian canola seed could introduce a more virulent strain of the blackleg fungus, which affects canola and rapeseed.
Canada and China agreed to jointly study the risk and in the interim the border was to remain open.
China’s canola-crushing plants are near the coast and a long way from its rapeseed-growing regions.
China raised the issue in 2016 and again China agreed to more study.
Canadian government officials have said research shows little risk from Canadian canola.
In March Chinese officials claimed Canadian canola seed imports were contaminated with weeds and plant diseases and stopped buying.
It has been widely believed China’s actions were aimed at pressuring Canada to release Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou being held for extradition to the United States on fraud charges.
China confirmed that last week.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the diplomatic row between Ottawa and Beijing lies entirely with Canada.
“We hope that Canada will take seriously our severe concerns and immediately release Ms. Meng Wanzhou… and actively take substantial measure to push China relations back on track,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.
But Meng’s arrest wasn’t an issue in 2016 or 2009, so what’s behind China’s actions? Could its concerns be legitimate? Is it trying to get dockage levels to one per cent from 2.5 to pay less for canola?
“I don’t know,” Buth said. “What China does only China knows. It’s really puzzling.
“It just seems to be about China wanting control.”