‘It’s our livelihood at stake‘: farmers react to China’s decision to stop buying Canadian canola


The news that China has blocked not just Richardson International’s exported canola, but all Canadian canola seed has sparked outrage among farmers across Canada.

“It’s very frustrating to be shut out of our largest market. This is why you need your national organizations and your federal government constantly nurturing these relationships to keep trade functioning,” says Terry Youzwa who farms near Nipawin, Sask.

“It’s our livelihood at stake everyday it’s disrupted, it’s unknown, it’s uncertainty, it affects the futures, it affects our basis, it affects our street prices. It affects the industry’s ability to continue to plan and project and move product and it has a huge impact on the country,” he says.

Youzwa says he had already moved a few quarters of the crop over to specialty canola a few weeks ago to help reduce risk after hearing there might be a disruption in the market. He adds it’s all speculation at this point whether this is political or as a way to drive down prices.

“The only thing we really know is that China will act in the interest of China,” he says.

Lee Markert, who has farms near Vulcan, Alta., calls the situation disheartening, and that he hopes it gets resolved sooner than later. As for what he thinks would help solve the problem? Boots on the ground.

“Certainly an ambassador with boots on the ground in China wouldn’t hurt our case, obviously the government’s got a lot on their plate at the moment but we’d like to think maybe we would get some sort of preference in the queue at some point … it’s just frustrating.” Canada has been without an ambassador to China since the January resignation of John McCallum.

“It’s disheartening and you’d like to see this resolved. It’s hard to imagine that these disruptions are based on anything really other than the physical commodity itself. It leaves you to wonder how it’s not political,” Markert says.

With seeding season roughly a month away, most farmers say they’re not changing seeding plans too much, yet and will be waiting at the edge of their seat for what the government will do to come to terms with China — because after all, it is an election year.

Manitoba grain and hog farmer, Korey Peters adds he’s hesitant about how much canola to seed this year, but says nothing will stop farmers completely ruling out the crop.

“(China) imports the most canola, and we need to find other ways to get it there,” says Peters who farms near Randolf. “I think there will be canola going there it just will be processed somewhere else and brought there and unfortunately that means farmers will suffer as the price does.”

Remaining optimistic is Christi Friesen, who farms in Peace Country, Alta. She says there’s never been a thought to seed less canola because of what’s been happening with China as her seeding is focused on crop rotation.

“We’re confident things will change. The canola we produce is world renowned and a premium product so we are quite confident things will turn around and that markets can go back up or can reflect that.”

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