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The Sprout: Producers worry Chinese diplomatic spat will hurt canola sales


Good afternoon and welcome to the Sprout, where it’s National Cereal Day. Thankfully, Nerdist ranked its top 50 cereals today.

Here’s today’s agriculture news.

The Lead

Farm groups are reportedly on edge after China blocked some Canadian canola shipments, in a move that some worry may be linked to the two countries diplomatic spat sparked by the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

As the Calgary Herald reports, China is the single largest export destination for Alberta canola, making up nearly half of exports in 2018, according to data from ATB Financial. On Tuesday, Winnipeg-based Richardson International Ltd. said its permit to export canola to China had been revoked, which China’s Foreign Ministry said was attributed to insect infestation, though this was disputed by Canada.

“Everyone in the canola value chain right now is concerned about what might happen, because there are a lot of unknowns,” said Ward Toma, general manager of Alberta Canola. “China’s a big market and Richardson is an important player.”

The Producer and CBC have more on the dispute.

Around Town

The House and Senate are not sitting this week.

Former agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay was at the Canadian Horticultural Council’s annual general meeting today to announce a $11.5 million investment by the government to the Horticulture Cluster.

In Canada

A bill that would ban cosmetic animal testing in Canada is expected to be tabled in the House of Commons the week of March 18.

After 29 months before the Senate, Bill S-214 passed the Red Chamber last June. It’s now being sponsored by Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu. Moving it along since it landed in the House, however, “turned out to be a bit more complicated than we thought,” she told iPolitics Wednesday. Stakeholders, including animal advocates and the cosmetic industry, as well as the Liberal government, all wanted to see tweaks to the proposed legislation, partly to bring it in line with the European Union before it was tabled, to ensure there were no trade issues through the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Holly Lake has more.

Sault Ste. Marie’s mayor says he believes U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel will be lifted soon, according to the Sault Star.

Mayor Christian Provenzano, who was part of a recent delegation led by Algoma Steel Inc. that travelled to Ottawa to meet government officials and make a presentation on the issue, said he has “a lot of confidence that everybody is on the same page and there is a lot of effort to deal with this in the near term.”

Provenzano said the group met with representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, minister of finance and minister of international trade.

“We need to stay supportive and show a unified front and continue to push for those tariffs to be lifted,” he said. “I do believe the time is near.”

Quebec producers say investment and real estate firms, not China, are the real threat to preserving provincial farmland.

Québec Solidaire agriculture critic and MNA Émilise Lessard-Therrien created an uproar by describing Chinese investors as predators in an interview with an online agricultural news outlet three weeks ago. She said they have been spotted in the countryside of her Rouyn-Noranda-Témiscamingue riding, presumably scouting swaths of agricultural lands there to purchase.

However, as the Montreal Gazette reports, the union that represents Quebec’s 42,000 professional farmers says provincial investing companies are the real threat, not China.

“Our concern is much more about Quebec investment companies buying up the lands, and much less about foreign investors,” said Union des producteurs agricoles spokesperson Patrice Juneau.

“We have no information presently that would indicate there are massive land purchases going on by foreign investors in Quebec.”


A new United Nations report released Wednesday says an estimated 43 per cent of North Koreans are undernourished and “chronic food insecurity and malnutrition is widespread.” The report, authored by the head of the U.N. office in North Korea, Tapan Mishra, pegged the number of undernourished residents at 11 million and warns that “widespread undernutrition threatens an entire generation of children, with one in five children stunted due to chronic undernutrition,” as reported by the Associated Press.

American farmers are less optimistic about their current economic conditions than they were last year, according to Purdue University’s Ag Economy Barometer. According to the barometer, which is based on a survey of 400 U.S. producers, farmers have weaker expectations for the future due to a general decline in the perception of current conditions in the industry. That’s from Successful Farming.

However, according to the latest forecast by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, net farm incomes will jump by 10 per cent this year, compared to the last. The figure is also down 10 per cent from an earlier projection. As Agri-Pulse reports, farm incomes still remain below the average level for the past two decades, as well as far below recent peaks.

Two white farmers in South Africa were sentenced to a combined 41 years in jail for killing a black teenager they accused of stealing sunflowers, in a case that exposed lingering racial tensions in the country, reports the New York Times. The boy, Matlhomola Mosweu, was killed after the farmers threw him off a moving truck. His death sparked riots in the town of Coligny, roughly 200 kilometres west of Johannesburg.



Jonathan Manthorpe: China spat may force Canada to seek new opportunities in Asia

The Kicker

A bill that would temporarily disallow the banning of plastic straws in a U.S. state passed a Senate committee on Monday. What state was it you ask? Florida, because of course it was. has more.

Until tomorrow.

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