A major Canadian canola exporter has had its registration to ship canola seeds to China revoked, the latest flare-up in a diplomatic and trade dispute between the two countries.
A Chinese customs document dated March 1 says the country has cancelled Winnipeg-based agricultural handler Richardson International’s registration. That means the company is forbidden to export canola seeds to the country.
“Richardson has been directly targeted,” said vice-president Jean-Marc Ruest. “We think this is part of a larger Canada-China issue, and we hope it gets resolved expeditiously.”
In the past, China has sought to limit the amount of “dockage” it allows in Canadian canola — referring to material such as weeds, stems and other seeds — to help fight the spread of a fungal crop disease known as blackleg.
But Ruest said the company believes this new flare-up isn’t related to those claims, but instead is tied to a roiling diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
“In regards to any issue of quality, we disagree with the Chinese allegations. The Canadian government respects and supports our position, and the quality of our product, at the same time.”
Canada exported more than $5 billion worth of canola last year, and almost half of it was destined for the Chinese market — almost five million metric tonnes worth, according to the Canadian Canola Growers Association.
Richardson is among the largest individual shippers of the product in the world, and this move “would basically curb or shut down their exports of canola,” growers association chief executive Rick White said in an interview.
“If Richardson can’t buy and move it and send it to China, farmers are to be left with it here in Canada.”
The news comes against the backdrop of rising tensions between Canada and China ignited last year, when Canadian officials detained Meng Wanzhou, vice-president of Chinese technology firm Huawei, at the request of U.S. tax authorities as she was boarding a flight in Vancouver.
Meng, who is the daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested on Dec. 1, 2018, while in transit through Vancouver to Mexico and South America. She is now involved in an extradition case and personal litigation against Canadian border officials, the RCMP and the attorney general of Canada.
Two Canadians — Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor — have since been detained in China, and on Monday the two men were accused of stealing state secrets from China.