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China ratchets up pressure on Canada by suspending another canola exporter

Canola grower David Reid checks on his storage bins full of last year's crop of canola seed on his farm near Cremona, Alta., on March 22, 2019. China's government has blocked imports of canola seed from a second major Canadian exporter, Viterra Inc. China's General Administration of Customs announced Tuesday on its website that its officials had detected several hazardous organisms in shipments of canola from Viterra. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

BEIJING — China says it suspended a second major Canadian canola exporter over alleged safety concerns as the diplomatic row between the two countries deepens further following the detention of a top Chinese telecom executive.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday that China’s actions were “scientific and reasonable.”

But, he added that Canada should “take practical measures to correct the mistakes it made earlier” in dealing with the overall relationship.

China suspended the licence of canola seeds from Viterra Inc. on Tuesday, citing hazardous organisms in shipments.

The latest punitive measure is a blow to $2 billion worth of exports and is widely seen as retaliation for Canada’s December arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the behest of the United States.

China halted imports from Canada’s other major canola exporter, Richardson International Ltd., earlier this month due to hazardous organisms allegedly found in the company’s product.

Canadian farmers say the moves have left them facing uncertainty just ahead of the planting season, which begins in mid- to late-April for many farmers. “There is a lot of confusion amongst farmers about what is able to be exported,” said David Quist, executive director of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers.

The Canola Council of Canada said all of its members have reported that Chinese importers are unwilling to purchase their products.

Both wheat and canola groups have called on the government to send a delegation to China to address the issue.

China — a major market for Canadian canola that accounts for about 40 per cent of Canada’s exports of canola seed, oil and meal — is the sole country to raise a technical issue with the product.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned the possibility of sending a delegation during a stop in Winnipeg on Tuesday.

“We know that the canola produced here in Canada is top quality, and the oversight, inspection and science that surrounds what we do here is top-notch and world-class, and that is certainly something that we are going to continue to impress upon … our Chinese interlocutors on this issue,” he said.