Canada to seek resolution with China on canola

Fri Oct 23, 2009 12:27pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada will send food-safety and agriculture officials to China within days to seek a resolution to Beijing's refusal to accept canola with blackleg disease, Canada's agriculture minister said Friday.

China notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in a letter a few days ago that it will not accept canola seed as of November 15 without a certificate showing it is free of blackleg -- a disease that is no longer a major threat in Canada but continues to be commonly found in canola seed -- the Canola Council of Canada said on Thursday.

"This is a very serious issue and we are working with Chinese officials to resolve this issue for Canadian canola producers," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a statement to Reuters. "Canadian farmers grow the best canola in the world and we will continue to stand up for them."

China imported 2.6 million tons of canola seed from Canada during the 2008-09 crop year, accounting for more one-third of that year's total seed exports, according to government figures supplied by the Canola Council.

A variant of rapeseed, canola is crushed to be used as a vegetable oil, and as a biofuel, as well as for its meal, which is used in livestock feed.

Near-month ICE Canada futures were up 0.9 percent late Friday after plunging 4 percent on Thursday on China's blackleg stance.

Blackleg is a disease that can damage or kill canola plants, but it carries no human health risk.

Canada's swift dispatch to China of officials with the federal Agriculture Department and Canadian Food Inspection Agency was welcome news to farmers, said Todd Hames, who grows canola in the western province of Alberta and is an executive with the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

"That shows how serious we're taking this thing," said Hames, who is harvesting 2,000 acres of the oilseed this autumn. "Good to see a quick response to this type of action."

China is also refusing canola with blackleg from Australia, the Canola Council has said.