Grain World: Beijing analyst brings different perspective

China has boosted its wheat imports from Canada in the wake of the U.S.-China trade war, Ivy Li says. (MarketsFarm photo by Glen Hallick)

Saskatoon | MarketsFarm — Ivy Li brought a much different perspective about China to the Grain World conference in Saskatoon.

Specializing in Chinese agricultural markets, the Beijing-based independent analyst veered away from the usual statements that often cast China as the bad guy on the world stage. Also, Li pointed out, Canada has been doing pretty well in exporting to China, despite issues regarding Canadian canola.

Central to Li’s presentation on Wednesday was how China has continued to diversify its agricultural imports as much as possible.

Just over the last year, China has either started importing or increasing imports from several countries — for example, rapeseed meal from India, Kazakhstan and Russia; soymeal from Russia and Argentina; cotton meal from Brazil; and sunflower meal from Russia.

While a lot of attention has been placed on China’s ban on canola seed imports from Canada, particularly through Richardson International and Viterra, all is far from doom and gloom, she said. In the U.S.-China trade war, the latter has increased its wheat imports from Canada, according to Li.

“Just in the first nine months of this year, Canada dominated. It has replaced the U.S. with a 71 per cent market share this year,” she said, adding that China has been buying more peas from Canada as well.

However, Li said, one aspect of China’s trade diversification might not bode well for Canada: flax. That’s because China has turned to neighbouring Kazakhstan for more flax.

As for canola market access, Li believes there are likely improvements ahead. China’s ambassador to Canada has commented there are few obstacles left in resolving the differences between the two countries, Li said.

Among those obstacles is the fate of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, whose extradition hearing continues in Vancouver. Meng was arrested by Canadian authorities a year ago at the request of the U.S.

Also, as reports have already stated, some Canadian canola has made it into China via the United Arab Emirates, Li said.

As for how the U.S.-China trade war can be resolved, Li said with a laugh “I don’t know,” adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump likely don’t know as well.

However, she said Washington’s demand of China needing to buy a specific amount of U.S. agricultural products is far from realistic, and that China wants to be free to purchase from whoever offers the best price.

In fact, with Australia’s canola production for this year on the wane, Li said China would merely turn to countries offering a better price.

Also, Li noted, when people discuss China, they need to separate the government from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). She stressed that the workings of the government are not necessarily at the behest of the governing party.

— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting.

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