BEIJING/OTTAWA (Reuters) – China expanded its ban on Canadian canola seed imports on Tuesday to include shipments from Viterra Inc, the latest development in a wider trade dispute between the two countries.
FILE PHOTO: A canola crop used for making cooking oil sits in full bloom on the Canadian prairies near Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada July 11, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol/File Photo
Viterra is the second canola exporter to have its registration canceled, after Beijing halted shipments from top exporter Richardson International earlier this month.
An industry group said last week that Chinese importers have stopped buying any oilseed from Canada, though Chinese imports of Canadian canola oil and meal have not been impacted.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday that his government was trying to resolve the issue and considering sending a high-level delegation to China to address the country’s safety concerns.
“We are taking this very seriously,” he said in Winnipeg, Manitoba, noting that Canada’s relationship with China has been fraught in recent months.
“We have seen a certain amount of challenges in our relationship with China over diplomatic issues,” he said.
Canada and China have been locked in a trade and political dispute since the chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies Ltd was arrested in Vancouver late last year on a U.S. extradition request.
The ban on Viterra and its related companies was announced by China’s General Administration of Customs on its website and was effective immediately. Viterra is owned by Glencore Plc’s agricultural arm.
Viterra did not immediately comment on the ban, while a spokeswoman for Glencore declined to comment.
In its statement on Tuesday, Chinese customs said the ports of Dalian and Nanning had once again detected several pests in samples taken from cargoes shipped by Viterra Inc.
In order to prevent the introduction of harmful organisms, it canceled the firm’s export registration, it said, adding that it will continue to strengthen inspections on all canola imports.
A spokesman for the Canola Council of Canada said the industry group is confident in the quality of Canadian canola seed exports, noting no other global customers have expressed concerns.
“Today (the Chinese) are alleging another new pest of concern. We are quite perplexed. How can the quality of our canola suddenly change?” said Brian Innes, VP public affairs with the Canola Council.
China’s customs authority said earlier this month it had found hazardous pests in canola imports from Canada and revoked the export registration of Richardson International.
Richardson has said its canola meets regulatory requirements.
China accounts for about 40 percent of Canada’s canola seed, oil and meal exports, according to the Canola Council, with seed exports to China worth some C$2.7 billion ($2 billion) a year.
Reporting by Dominique Patton, editing by Louise Heavens, Susan Fenton and Dan Grebler