The Canola Council of Canada (CCC) along with the Canadian Canola Growers Association provided an update Tuesday morning of where things are at with the canola industry in light of market access in China and the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on seeding progress here at home. It is a busy and challenging time on several fronts.
Jim Everson, president of the CCC reports that following an agreement reached with the Chinese March 30, about 30 per cent of the normal trade of canola seed, that meets the low dockage (under one per cent dockage) continues to China. As well China continues to import canola oil and meal from Canada.
And while talks or negotiations between the CCC, Canadian federal government and Chinese officials continue there doesn’t appear to be much room to change the Chinese low-dockage requirement on any further exports. Canola shipments to China from Viterra and Richardson International are still blocked and it sounds like even if they did meet the one per cent dockage requirement that wouldn’t automatically give those companies permission or permits to resume trade.
In the meantime Canadian canola exporters have picked up some more markets in countries such as Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirate and the EU to name a few. These are among the countries that can handle canola seed processing. Thailand is also interested in buying more Canadian canola meal.
The Canadian Canola Growers Association continues to work with the federal government to improve existing risk management programs such as AgriStability, AgriInvest and AgriRecovery — some improvements have been made, but more is needed to reflect the extraordinary circumstances caused by COVID-19.
CASH ADVANCE PAYMENTS ARE COMING
A double whammy hit the Canadian Canola Growers Association — administrators of the Cash Advance Program — reports Rick White, president and CEO of the CCGA. The one/two punch has resulted in a backlog in processing cash advance payments.
Everything was going well with the processing and administration of Cash Advance Payments until COVID -19 forced White to make the executive decision in mid- March to close the office and send everyone home to work. That caused an interruption and slowed the approvals and processing to some extent.
The second shoe to drop, right at the same time, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada introduced new rules concerning “credit worthiness” of applicants which meant the CCGA had to make further investigations of some applications before cash advance payments could be approved.
As White explained the speed of approval for a cash advance “depends” on several factors. For example, if you are an existing client, with good credit history and need $100,000 to get the crop seeded, you likely can get a cheque within a few days. If you are new client, needing $400,000 with no credit history with the program, it could take a few weeks to get approval.
While the CCGA is working its way through the backlog as quickly as possible — apparently there is light at the end of the tunnel — White urges applicants to be patient.
NO MAJOR ROAD BLOCKS
While COVID-19 has turned much of the world upside down, it appears most of the system needed to get crops seeded for 2020 is working smoothly. Both Everson of the CCC and White at CCGA say it appears seeding inputs are available, grain transportation systems are operating fairly efficiency and there haven’t been any major roadblocks interfering with getting the 2020 crop seeded.
Having said that, both organizations urge farmers who might encounter any snags while trying to get crops seeded to let them know. Visit their respective websites and use the links there to report any problems. You can reach the canola council at https://www.canolacouncil.org and the CCGA at: https://www.ccga.ca
PPE MATERIALS NEEDED
Both canola organizations as well as other commodity organizations continue to appeal to government and health authorities to get personal protection equipment (PPE) back into retail outlets so it is available for farmers as they prepare to seed the 2020 crop.
While provincial and federal officials appear to boast about the readiness of the Canadian health system to handle the COVID-19 outbreak, the fact is at the front line, basic equipment such as protective face masks and disposable gloves are scarce or non-existent at the retail level.
It is not just a COIVID-19 issue. These PPE materials are needed every year as farmers and input suppliers handle a range of products that can pose a health risk. That includes everything from grain dust to exposure to hazardous chemicals. Farmers have long been urged to wear protective gear, but supplies needed by the essential agriculture industry are not getting through to local retailers.
STILL HOPE FOR AG CANADA RESEARCH
Jim Everson still has hopes that ongoing talks with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) will get them back on board to undertake at least part of the annual field research program for 2020.
Last week during a conference call with the AAFC deputy minister, commodity organizations and research groups heard that due to the COVID-19 pandemic Ag Canada was cancelling its field research program for the 2020 growing season. They’d keep the grass mowed and control any weeds but as far as the annual extensive program to establish plots to evaluate everything from new crop varieties, to disease and insect pest that was all being cancelled.
While everyone appreciates the importance of worker health and safety, commodity organizations were shocked and surprised at the decision since university researchers, applied research organizations and private company research departments were all figuring out ways to continue their research programs this year while keeping pandemic distancing requirements in mind.
Everson says he appreciates the federal government has a lot of irons in the fire at the moment, and in some cases people from different departments have been redirected to work with essential services such as the agriculture industry. He’s hopeful as talks continue, there is still time and opportunity for the feds to modify their stand on field research.
Lee Hart is a field editor with Grainews based in Calgary. Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]