China, MRLs and Quinclorac — An Update from the Canola Council of Canada

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When it comes to global trade, there are numerous challenges organizations and industry representatives must face. First, they have to be able to deal with cross-cultural communications issues, and understanding their partner country, from how to properly greet someone, to what the product means to the country’s people. Second, they have to be able to meet or negotiate (often strict) expectations of quality. Third, they have to be able to negotiate a price. And perhaps most importantly, they have to do this such that the partnering country will want to collaborate again.

China’s Tightened Dockage Limits

For example, just last month, Canada’s canola industry was hit with some changes from China. The country notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that instead of accepting dockage with up to 2-2.5%, as of April 1, the country will accept no more than 1%.

The Chinese government suggests the change is a result of worries around blackleg.

Regulatory Reform

Meanwhile at the Farmtech conference in Edmonton, RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney had the opportunity to sit down with Patti Miller, president of the Canola Council of Canada (CCC) to talk about international markets.

On China, Miller said, there are still a lot of things that we don’t know.

“One of challenges things right now is that they’re undergoing a huge regulatory reform in food and feed safety,” says Miller. “This is something we’ve done in Canada, the United States has done it, China’s now going through it.”

The changes are still a little unclear, so it will take some time for the Canadian industry to learn how the system works, and determine the best ways of being involved in trade with the country.

In this interview, filmed at Farmtech, RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney speaks with CCC president Patti Miller. The duo talk trade barriers, cross-cultural collaboration, MRLs, quinclorac and the Council’s goal for 52 by 2025.

Maximum Residue Limit Standards

Beyond restrictions around dockage, countries also often have differing standards on maximum reside limits, or MRLs.

“Maximum residue limits are the maximum amount of pesticide that could be left on the seed or in the oil or the meal that a country will accept,” Miller said. “If farmers apply a crop protection product and there’s residue on that crop, and that residue limit is higher than the level that’s accepted in our major markets, vessels can get rejected or discounted and that’s millions and millions of dollars.”

In Canada, MRLs are determined through a combination of science and large safety buffers. They are not negotiated, and every country has their own system in place for determining MRLs.

“Some accept international voluntary standards,” explained Miller. “Other countries have their own systems. Sometimes they will accept the exporting country’s maximum residue methodology and systems.”

And sometimes determining MRLs can take longer in one country than in others, which leads to discrepancies in chemical approval and industry recommendations.

“The biggest challenge is the approvals don’t happen at the same time. So in Canada, we could get a product approved for use, but it might not be approved in Japan, or it might not be approved in China. And so, then farmers don’t have access to technology that exists…”

The Issue with Quinclorac

One particular active ingredient, quinclorac, has been on the Canola Council’s radar this past year.

Related: Ritz “Baffled” By Quinclorac Policy; Canola Council Responds

“We’ve had a really challenging issue with quinclorac this year. As a canola council, all of our member companies adhere to a policy of voluntary commercialization,” she explained. “So that means a company can develop a new technology and get it approved for use in Canada, but they won’t sell it to farmers until we’ve got the approvals that we need in the major markets.”

Quinclorac, though registered in Canada for the 2015 growing season, did not have initial approvals in Japan and China, Miller told us. That meant grain companies were trying to manage purchases such that canola sprayed with the herbicide, did not enter these markets.

There is currently no timeline for the implementation of MRLs around quinclorac in China, though there have been suggestions the CODEX Alimentarius MRL could be established as early as 2018.

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