The Chinese government has agreed to postpone tighter dockage standards on Canadian canola.
In February, China indicated a new standard allowing no more than 1 percent foreign material would be implemented on April 1. As Reuters first reported on Tuesday morning, China’s import policy changes have now been postponed until September 1, 2016.
The Chinese say they’re concerned about spreading blackleg disease from Canadian shipments to their domestic canola or rapeseed production, an ongoing issue that saw China implement restrictions on canola seed from Canada in 2009.
“They’re worried if there’s dockage that comes in from Canada to the areas where they grow rapeseed, that blackleg could be introduced. We don’t think that’s an issue,” explains Patti Miller, president of the Canola Council of Canada.
The Canadian Grain Commission maximum for foreign material or dockage is 2.5 percent, although exporting companies currently tend to negotiate dockage terms as part of their contract.
As Miller explains in our conversation below, although attainable, the Canola Council believes a 1 percent maximum dockage standard cannot be scientifically justified.
“What our science has shown is there’s virtually no risk at current dockage levels,” she says.
“Is one percent dockage physically possible? Yes, but it’s also extremely costly, and not just in terms of additional equipment that would have to be put into elevators. It would cause a significant slowdown in the system and that would impact more than canola. It would impact all of the crops that are being exported.”
Both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding blackleg in 2010. As part of the MOU, the Canadian canola industry and government have invested significant resources in researching the potential risks and ways to mitigate the spread of the disease.
“This particular discussion is around the very last research project that we worked on and that’s specific to dockage,” says Miller. “We have done research along the entire canola value chain, from looking at resistance in seed varieties to farmers’ agronomic practices to the fact the disease is killed when you process it due to the heat. This last piece is around dockage, and whether or not when dockage arrives in China, there’s a chance of transmission.”
Under the terms agreed to in 2010, canola seed exports to China can only go to processing facilities approved by Chinese authorities in areas where rapeseed is not grown. Several processing plants have been added to the list over the years, but she says “virtually all of the plants that can accept Canadian canola are in the non-rapeseed growing areas.”
The Canola Council is hopeful the five-month delay will allow for both sides to come to a long-term agreement. Chinese regulatory authorities are sending scientists to Canada to assess the blackleg risk in the coming months.
“We’ll have to get together with their scientists as soon as we possibly can, really focus on the areas of disagreement and then develop the studies that will address their questions and get those done in short order,” says Miller.