Canola experts – may not be exactly as illustrated

(March 23, 2019)  This morning CBC is reporting that China stopped all purchases of canola from Canadian sources.  In spite of what Harper era diplomats with short memories and some other commentators may say, this is about the customer, in this case China, not getting the product they want.

The canola issue is rooted in concerns about dockage and trust that go back almost three years.  As this writer said at the time, most of the canola off prairie farms already meets the one percent dockage standard China wants.  Following monumentally short sighted advice from private sector insiders and the industry-captured Canola Council of Canada, Prime Minister Trudeau insulted his Chinese hosts on this subject during his last visit by insisting on the 2.5% standard.

Back in the days when the Canadian Wheat Board still existed it maintained a full office and staff in Beijing. The CWB won China’s respect and trust in the 1950s for defying the American food embargo by selling Canadian wheat and barley to a starving China.  Over the years, CWB staff often went to bat for Canadian companies having difficulties in China and around Asia.  Those Canadian companies effectively free-loaded on the good will generated by the Wheat Board.  Harper killed all that.

When the Harper administration was burning down the CWB and research libraries, this writer and many others pointed out the CWB was a valuable and credible advocate for Canadian grain farmers.  The people on the Canola commissions loudly proclaimed they could easily do the same job.  Events have now demonstrated they can’t.

All they managed to do during Trudeau’s last visit to China was goad him into insulting the Chinese while taking the side of the much disliked American grain companies.  Out of respect the Chinese let Trudeau save face by kicking the can down the road.  Today that can landed with a thud heard across prairie Canada.  When he got home Trudeau added insult to injury by appointing a former executive from one of the big American grain companies to head the critical Canadian Grain Commission.

As was said here, “the canola council can’t”  and farmers with canola in their bins that is suddenly worth a lot less money today than it was yesterday should demand their check-off money back from the Canola commissions they finance.  After all, farmers will need the money and the commissions have done them no favours.

The best the Canola Council can now come up with is the nonsense that Europe will step up as an alternative market.  Sure, once that market sees genetically modified crops and the glyphosate they depend on as selling points.  Good luck with that. In the meantime, farmers better start hoping Trudeau stops taking bad advice on China and canola.

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