Canola sector aims for China breakthrough

Tue May 1, 2012 2:43pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - The Canola Council of Canada is working to convince China to scrap its trade restrictions against the oilseed, Canada's most profitable crop, and is hoping for a breakthrough this year, the organization's new head said on Tuesday.

Canadian government and trade officials have made frequent visits to China, and the Canola Council is wrapping up a joint research program to address China's concerns about the spread of the fungal disease blackleg in its domestic growing areas.

"We really hope those results will have an impact and will encourage China to open up their borders again," said Patti Miller, president of Canada's leading canola trade group, in an interview with Reuters on her second day on the job.

China, the No. 2 canola/rapeseed grower just behind Canada, has restricted imports of Canadian canola with blackleg to a handful of crushing plants since late 2009. Those limited concessions are temporary exceptions to an outright ban, and are up for annual renewal.

Oilseed traders in China said in March that they expect Chinese quarantine authorities to partly lift restrictions and allow imports of Canadian canola by crushers in major rapeseed growing areas.

China's appetite for North American oilseeds has grown in the wake of weather-related damage to South America's soybeans and European rapeseed.

Despite the trade restrictions, China bought 1.5 million tons of Canadian canola from August through February, nearly tripling the volume from a year earlier and making it Canada's biggest export market for canola seed this year.

Canada controls more than two-thirds of global trade in canola, or rapeseed.   Continued...