Alberta Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen says the province is taking action to help canola farmers, and cannot wait for the federal government to solve the trade dispute with China.
“When it comes to China, farmers shouldn’t have to be paying for this political and diplomatic dispute,”Dreeshen said Friday.
“Right now, as a province, we’re looking for ways to engage with China. Whether that’s through the consul general or with certain businesses and local governments in China, we’re trying our best to look at all options to engage with them.”
Dreeshen, who was at the UFA in Red Deer County as part of Farmer’s Day celebrations, was critical of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government’s handling of the dispute.
“There does seem to be a roadblock with this current federal government and China. The only way to get (past) a roadblock is to go around it, so that’s what we’re looking at provincially to come up with ways to try to find a resolution to this problem.”
The province will continue to work with the federal government, he said, pointing out Economic Development, Trade and Tourism Minister Tanya Fir just returned from a federally led trade mission to Japan and South Korea seeking out new canola markets.
“But to me, when the federal government is having these political problems, we can’t just throw up our hands and say, ‘Farmers, it’s hopeless.’
“We are trying to do everything we can within our purview as a province to fight for and promote farmers in this market-access fight with China.”
While efforts to find other markets could prove helpful, China is by far Alberta’s biggest market, taking 40 per cent of exported canola.
“Looking at other countries, obviously, yes, we need to do that and try to diversify more trade. But China is set up so well to be our No. 1 customer, so we do need to find ways to resolve this,” he said.
“In the foreseeable future, China is a great market, they’ve liked our canola for years.
“But this federal government and the political issues we’re having now is just unfortunate for western Canadian farmers.”