China blocks Canadian firm's canola shipments

March 06, 2019 09:11
China buys some C$2.5 billion (US$1.88 billion) of Canadian canola per year. Photo: Reuters

Canadian agribusiness Richardson International Ltd. said its registration to ship canola to China has been blocked by Beijing.

It was not immediately clear why exports to China by Richardson, the world’s top importer of canola, had been halted, Reuters said but noted that it was the latest sign of tensions between Ottawa and Beijing.

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

Richardson spokeswoman Hayley Johnson confirmed that China revoked the company’s import permit for canola, after Reuters earlier reported a document listing approved shippers posted on the website of the Chinese customs administration on March 1 showed the cancellation.

The document is a revised version of a notice first posted on Jan. 14. A note beside the entry for Richardson in the latest document reads: “Canola export registration already canceled.”

A lasting block on Richardson’s canola exports would be a headache for Canada’s biggest grain handler and a potential blow for the country’s economy as a whole.

Oilseeds like canola, fruit and grain are Canada’s biggest China export category, making up nearly 17 percent of all exports in 2017, the latest annual data available, according to the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she was “very concerned” by the blocked shipment.

“We do not believe there is any scientific basis for this ... we are working very very hard with the Chinese government on this issue,” she told reporters in Longueuil, Quebec, saying the matter was of the utmost priority for Ottawa.

As the diplomatic dispute between China and Canada intensified, Beijing has detained two Canadians working in China, and on Monday accused one of them of stealing Chinese state secrets passed on to him by the other.

There had already been reports last month that Canadian canola shipments to China had been slow to clear customs amid the dispute.

China buys some C$2.5 billion (US$1.88 billion) of Canadian canola per year, and a slower pace of sales would mean another hit for exporters, which include Viterra and Cargill Ltd.

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