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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Talks between Canadian and Chinese government officials about a resolution to China's refusal to import Canadian canola seed with blackleg disease will continue next week, Canadian agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said on Friday.
China, Canada's biggest canola seed market last year, is refusing to accept Canadian canola with the disease as of November 15 and has not been accepting Australian canola as of October 15.
"We've got officials on the ground in Beijing and here in Canada working around the clock to make progress on this issue," Ritz said in a statement to Reuters. "Everybody knows this situation is going to require a lot of hard work and we're committed to keeping the talks going."
Canada is the world's top exporter of canola, which is crushed for its oil to be used in vegetable oil and biofuel and for its meal to be used in livestock feed.
China imported at least 2.6 million tons of canola last year.
China refused the Canadian delegation's request for a six-month delay to the November 15 date, which refers to shipment from Canada, the Canola Council of Canada said on Monday.
In addition, China had not shown any willingness to consider alternative steps to reduce the risk of importing Canadian canola with blackleg disease, such as transferring canola from vessels directly into crushing plant silos, the Canola Council said. Such a move would essentially segregate Canadian canola from China's rapeseed.
The Canola Council said on Friday that it had no update on the situation.
Blackleg, a disease caused by a fungus that can kill the canola plant but has no human health risk, is not a major threat to Canadian crops because of resistant crop varieties. However, it is commonly found on canola seed.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said it cannot issue a certificate that canola shipments are blackleg-free because it is a common canola disease and there is no agreed-to testing method.
Blackleg is present in China, but the Chinese government maintains it is a less serious form than the disease in Canada.
Front-month ICE Canada canola futures were down almost 2 percent shortly before the close of trading on Friday. Canola futures had regained much of the value they lost after China's stance was announced October 22.
Editing by Marguerita Choy