Letter to the Editor: Standing up for science-based rules

August 29, 2016

On August 23, 2016, this Letter to the Editor was sent to all agricultural news publications across Western Canada. A collaboration between Alberta Canola, SaskCanola, Manitoba Canola Growers Association, and the Canadian Canola Growers Association this letter addressed the Chinese dockage and trade issue.


Letter to the Editor: Standing up for science-based rules

Harvest in western Canada has started and uncertainty about canola seed exports to China continues. It’s an important issue and everyone in the Canadian grain and oilseed industry needs to understand what’s at stake. Accepting Chinese demands for less than 1% dockage without a science-based reason has long-term implications for the future competitiveness of our industry.

Over the past six and half years the Canadian canola industry has been working with the Chinese to address their concerns that blackleg could be transferred from Canadian canola to China’s canola (rapeseed) crop. Canada has invested millions in research to understand where the risk might be and how to lower it. Actions have already been taken by both countries to lower this– such as limiting Canadian shipments to areas in China that don’t grow rapeseed. Now, the Chinese government wants to limit dockage to less than 1% because they say dockage could transmit blackleg to their crops.

But there’s a problem. There’s no evidence this would have any impact on the risk of blackleg.  Achieving 1% dockage in canola creates extra costs – especially on the large volumes of seed that China takes. About 40% of our seed exports go to China.

The Canadian grain handling system is designed to move large volumes of grain from farm to port. Lowering dockage requires time and equipment. With many crops going through the same grain handling system, extra time cleaning canola impacts all crops.

It would be easy to say that grain handlers should clean canola more. This would be shortsighted and miss the impact it would have on growers’ long-term profitability.

Meeting the Chinese demand for less than 1% dockage means that Canadian canola is having costs imposed on it that are not imposed on other oilseeds from other countries. These costs are first seen by grain handlers, but they will also be felt by growers.

While some shipments from some companies may be achieving premiums to cover these costs now, the costs of meeting it on an industry-wide basis for four million tonnes of canola would be significant. It’s hard to see how premiums could be being sustained on four million tonnes. The canola industry, including growers will be forced to pay this cost.

This is why resolving this issue is critical to not only canola but the entire Canadian agriculture industry.

As an industry, we need to look further down the road than the next trade. Accepting costs without scientific justification today tells others we’ll accept it in the future.

Greg Sears
Chair -Alberta Canola Producers Commission
Director – Canola Council of Canada

Terry Youzwa
Chair – SaskCanola
Past Chair – Canola Council of Canada

Brian Chorney
Manitoba Canola Growers Association
Director – Canola Council of Canada

Brett Halstead
President – Canadian Canola Growers Association
Director – Canola Council of Canada

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