Agriculture This Week - China and weather cloud canola plans

The ongoing issues with canola exports to China has to have Prairie producers adding a wild card to the deck as they prepare to deal out their 2019 cropping intentions.

Canada’s trade diversification minister has come out with a statement calling on the Chinese government to “show us the evidence” of alleged impurities it used as justification for yanking Richardson International Ltd.’s canola export licence, details a recent Star Phoenix story.

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“The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspected this canola, said it was of high quality as is the nature of the product that we export. The Chinese say that it has impurities. We say to the Chinese, ‘Show us. Show us a sample,’ ” Jim Carr said.

It is more than likely the so-called impurities are nothing more than the Chinese government putting some trade pressure on Canada as a way to show strength regarding issues between the two countries which have nothing to do with agricultural trade.

It is a tactic that definitely gets noticed here since in 2017, the last year for which annual data are available, Saskatchewan exported $3.6 billion worth of canola seed — about 26 per cent of all agricultural exports. China was among its best customers, buying $1.4 billion of that total, according to the Star Phoenix article.

Long term China is going to remain a buyer of canola oil based on a growing middle class looking for it on their store shelves.

But, short term the commodity can certainly be a political football, which can raise some questions for farmers here headed to spring planting.

Farmers have never had control over political posturing using agricultural products as a hammer, and they have even less control over weather.

In December an article at also has to be a wild card for famers in general and canola producers specifically.

“The influence of El Niño can be felt far and wide and heavy rainfalls, catastrophic flooding, and mass crop failures can all be attributed to this powerful climate cycle. Early compilations of 2018’s data indicate that this year will likely become the fourth warmest on record, and the developing El Niño event is increasing the odds that 2019 will be the hottest year that human life has ever experienced,” noted the article.

Is a forecast in December a guarantee? Of course not, but it does suggest some reason for concern.

Extreme heat, especially at the time canola flowers, can cause problems as blooms are lost to the heat, which impacts the number of pods on a plant.

While the Chinese situation could be solved long before the 2019 crop is harvested and ready for sale, and weather has a tendency to moderate closer to the actual date of a forecast, the two factors do suggest canola could face some definite production and marketing challenges in 2019.

Calvin Daniels is Editor of Yorktion This Week.

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