Sylvan Lake canola producer Mike Ammeter was at an agricultural conference in Montreal on Wednesday where news of China’s boycott spread like wildfire.
“News like this hits real fast and hard and it’s kind of the topic of the day,” said Ammeter, who was at the first-ever joint conference of the Canola Council of Canada and the Canadian grain council.
Canola markets also shuddered — with prices dropping — in the wake of China’s decision to block import from Richardson International Ltd., one of Canada’s largest grain exporters. China’s foreign ministry said the move is due to fears of insect infestation but there are suspicions it is retaliation against the Canadian government for arresting a top Huawei executive last December.
“It’s really concerning,” said Ammeter. “Canada relies on exports just a tremendous amount,” he said, adding about 40 per cent of Canada’s canola and related products are exported to China.
“Today, it’s one company, but whether this escalates we have no idea.”
One of the biggest impacts of moves like China’s is that creates uncertainty in the market, especially for big canola buyers.
“If they’re doing business in China and if all of a sudden China throws this at one company and suspends or halts their ability to trade, it certainly puts jitters into everybody.
“I think that’s reflected right away.”
One of the other producers at the conference told him that yesterday it was difficult for canola sellers to get any firm bids because of the uncertainty over where prices might go.
Premier Rachel Notley came out strongly against China’s move on Wednesday calling it wrong and unfair.
Seventy per cent of Alberta’s agri-food exports to China are canola-related products and canola contributes to the Canadian economy, she said. Alberta’s producers stand to lose hundreds of millions and up to 3,000 jobs could be lost if the impasse is not resolved.
Notley appealed directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to get involved.
“I’m calling on the prime minister to get back on the job and fight for our canola farmers and the jobs they support.
“We are calling on Ottawa to stop its navel-gazing about its internal controversies and fight back,” she said.
“We need certainty – and now, more than ever, we need Ottawa to be in Canada’s corner.”
Ammeter agreed with Notley.
“We would applaud her comments. She’s right. This is a huge part of our economy.”
Producers must rely on their organizations and especially the federal government, which must be pressured to resolve the situation.
With files from Canadian Press