With seeding just two months away, Canada’s pulse crop industry is in limbo, facing the threat of not having access to its largest export market as of the end of March.
India’s government says it will not extend a derogation (or an exemption) allowing pulses from Canada to be fumigated with methyl bromide upon arrival, rather than in the exporting country. Since 2004, Canada has re-applied and been granted this derogation to have Canadian pulses fumigated when they land in India, in part because methyl bromide is ineffective in Canada’s cold temperatures. With this exemption set to expire on March 31, new export business with India has come to a standstill as the window for shipping to India before the end of March has passed.
To put the significance of this in perspective, India is the destination for just over a third of Canada’s pulse exports, with Canadian pulses representing around half of India’s imports in recent years. In 2016, Canada exported 1.9 million tonnes of pulse crops worth more than $1.1 billion to India.
“It’s really changed our business with India right now. There’s a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen, how this will be addressed, and there are still some things at play that we need some answers on,” says Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada, joining us for this Pulse School episode prior to flying to India to discuss the issue later this week.
Pulse Canada and the Canadian government are waiting on the Indian government to finish a departmental review of alternative options to its blanket fumigation policy and to make a political decision on the assessment, he explains. They’re hoping to get the status of Canadian pulse shipments clarified before March 10th, says Bacon.
“We’re already in trouble because we have equipment companies not allocating equipment to go to India because of the uncertainty. Companies are puzzled now as to what the course of action should be because they have contracts that say they have to deliver, but we don’t know what will happen when the cargo arrives in India,” he says.
The position held by the Canadian government and pulse industry is that Canadian shipments don’t present a risk to Indian plant quarantine and pest control concerns.
“We have a very solid record showing we don’t have a live insect problem, in part because of the climate and in part because of the regulations that are in place,” says Bacon.
India’s government has set aggressive targets for increasing domestic pulse production, with the country’s agriculture minister recently describing plans be self-sufficient in pulses within the next few years.
That begs the question — is this an artificial trade barrier designed to support India’s domestic pulse producers?
“I couldn’t possibly know what is behind all of India’s actions. I do know that plant quarantine concerns are legitimate ones for every country,” says Bacon.
Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay is leading a trade mission to India later this week where it’s expected he will push for a resolution. Bacon, along with Pulse Canada chair Lee Moats and Canadian Food Inspection Agency president Paul Glover, will be part of the Canadian delegation.
Find more Pulse School articles here.