Richardson disputes China claim of ‘hazardous pests’ in canola

Beijing/Chicago | Reuters — Canadian agribusiness Richardson International said on Wednesday that canola it shipped to China met regulatory requirements after a Chinese official charged that “hazardous pests” were found in samples taken recently from Canadian canola imports.

Beijing this month cancelled Richardson’s registration to ship Canadian canola to China, the world’s top importer of the oilseed, in the latest sign of tensions between the countries, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

Canada and China are locked in a dispute over trade and telecoms technology that has ensnared the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, who faces U.S. criminal charges.

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China foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Wednesday that customs officials had frequently discovered pests in samples taken recently from imports from Canada, which supplies more than 90 per cent of Chinese canola imports.

Winnipeg-based, privately-held Richardson is the largest exporter of Canadian canola to China and its shipments met Chinese requirements, said Jean-Marc Ruest, the company’s general counsel and senior vice-president of corporate affairs.

“We’re firmly of the view that there was no substantiation of those allegations,” he said in a phone interview.

Richardson is working with the Canadian government to end China’s block on its canola shipments but does not know how long the suspension will last, Ruest said.

Asked about the reason for the suspension, he said: “We can only guess at this point in time. We’re a prominent Canadian corporation.”

Beijing has previously warned of potential curbs on canola imports, citing concerns over fungus in the imports. Canola is used for cooking and as feed for animals and fish.

In 2016, China tried to impose tougher standards on levels of foreign material in canola imports, which was seen by some as an effort by China to reduce high domestic stocks.

“Recently China customs frequently detected hazardous pests in imports of Canadian canola, and in one company’s imports the problem was particularly serious,” Lu said during a regular press briefing.

Lu did not identify the company but said the situation led customs to temporarily suspend imports.

The latest suspension was completely “reasonable and legal” and aimed at protecting the health and safety of Chinese citizens, Lu said.

Canada’s agriculture minister said Tuesday that Canada’s food inspection agency had carried out further investigations in response to China’s moves and had not identified any pests or bacteria of concern.

ICE May canola futures fell for a second straight day, down $2.30 or 0.5 per cent, to $455.50 in midday trading.

Reporting for Reuters by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Tom Polansek in Chicago; writing by Dominique Patton.

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