Seller Beware: Avoiding Mistakes That Make a Crop Difficult to Market

Nobody wants to be stuck with a crop that suddenly has no market, especially when it’s due to avoidable circumstances.

While Canada’s regulatory process and international trade policies are designed to prevent situations where residues from pesticides and other tools used to grow crops become trade obstacles, each farmer must still carry out their own due diligence.

Wheat treated with "Manipulator" on the right (photo credit: Engage Agro)
Wheat treated with “Manipulator” on the right (photo credit: Engage Agro)

It’s not the first product, nor will it be the last, but the plant growth regulator from Engage Agro known as “Manipulator” is a current example of a new product that comes with marketing restrictions growers need to be aware of. This PGR was approved by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency for wheat starting in 2015. Chlormequat, the active ingredient in Manipulator, has been used by growers in Europe for many years, but the U.S. has not yet established a maximum residue limit (MRL), meaning there is zero tolerance for the product in grain shipments south. As a result, some grain companies in Canada have recently told growers they might not buy wheat treated with Manipulator.

“The application for an MRL is currently under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We are hopeful an MRL for Manipulator will be established as soon as possible,” said Tom Tregunno, product manager for Engage Agro when contacted by RealAgriculture.com.

He pointed out MRLs for chlormequat have been established in most world markets, including through Codex Alimentarius — the international standard recognized by the UN and the World Health Organization. Chlormequat is registered for use in all of Europe, Australia, and most major wheat-producing countries, but not in the U.S.

Whether it’s a new plant growth regulator or any other crop health treatment, it’s important that growers speak to their grain buyers and crop input retailers about marketing implications, especially when using a product for the first time, says Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada, in the interview below.

“We know product approval doesn’t happen at the same time in all countries, so we end up with cases where Canada’s science-based approval system has given the okay to a product that might not be approved in our key export markets,” he notes.

So should acceptance in key markets be part of the criteria for registering a new product in Canada? No, because that would open up the approval process to subjective requirements, says Dahl.

“I want to keep Canada’s system science-based. I want the PMRA to look at the science,” he says.

It’s unrealistic to expect farmers to understand every regulation in all the export markets, so the entire value chain must work together to prevent situations where a shipment could be rejected, says Dahl.

Five tips to avoid mistakes that make a crop difficult to market:

1. Be aware that some crop products may limit access to export markets. When possible develop a crop protection management plan before the seed is planted. This plan needs to take into account the needs of export markets.

2. Do talk to your agri-retailer before using crop protection products for the first time. Ensure that these products are approved for use in the markets your grain will flow into.

3. Do talk to your grain buyers to ensure that they know what crop protection products you intend on using and confirm that none of these products will cause concern for export or domestic customers.

4. Don’t use products if they are not approved for use by potential customers.

5. Always know and follow the label. Labels on crop protection products have been developed through Canada’s science based regulatory process. The labels ensure safe use of crop protection products and help ensure that residues are not a marketing concern.

This list was developed by Cereals Canada, together with the Grain Growers of Canada, CropLife Canada, the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers and the Western Grain Elevator Association.

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