The normal discussions around the weather and spring planting have been rudely disrupted across rural areas of Waterloo Region and all of Canada this spring.
In Waterloo Region and Ontario generally climatic conditions have been far from ideal. However, the larger concern is that farmers in every region of Canada are being impacted by the failure of governments to resolve a series of trade issues leaving them and their dependent communities in extreme peril.
The problem generating the most attention is the slowdown of Canadian canola exports into China. In Canada, a connection between this action and the arrest of Chinese technology executive Meng Wanzhou has been frequently mentioned as the origin of the problems. In China, the dispute is allegedly science-based, although attempts to find the exact basis have fallen extremely short. Efforts by the Canadian government to arrange meetings are consistently rejected by Chinese officials.
The dominant oilseed in Ontario is soybeans, which is the second largest commodity in dollar value after dairy. In early May, reports first circulated from both Canadian and American sources that Canadian soybeans were being held at Chinese ports because of food safety concerns.
Particularly frustrating for Ontario soybean farmers and exporters is that shipments into China actually increased last year as a result of China’s on-going dispute with the United States. By the end of May, soybean imports from Canada were essentially non-existent.
In late May John Ivison wrote a column in the National Post which claimed the federal government is under pressure from Canadian business leaders to implement the same political pressure used by China – primarily health and safety concerns to restrict imports and slow container traffic. The advice to the Prime Minister and his cabinet members is to take action and not simply threaten it.
Ultimately for Canadian farmers the frustration is the knowledge that some of the best quality food products in the world are being restricted into export markets. The consensus across Canada is to just solve this problem sooner rather than later.