Liberals boost loans for canola farmers, seek new markets for product blocked by China

Liberals boost loans for canola farmers, seek new markets for product blocked by China

Canola farmers are getting a boost to a federal loan program as China continues to block imports it claims are contaminated with pests. 

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr announced Wednesday that the government will more than double the maximum amount of money available to individual producers under the Advance Payments Program (APP), from $400,000 per year to $1 million.

“These measures will give canola farmers the support they need to manage their cash flow,” Bibeau said during a news conference on Parliament Hill.

The increase will be available to all Canadian farmers. For canola producers, the interest-free portion will be increased to $500,000 from $100,000.

China has blocked Canadian canola from Richardson International and Viterra, two of Canada’s biggest exporters, saying that shipments were contaminated with pests. Canadian politicians have insisted there is no basis for that claim.

Bibeau said farmers often face tremendous pressures, and trade uncertainties can add to stress and mental health issues.

“We encourage farmers in need never to hesitate to reach out for help,” she said.

Carr also announced he will lead a trade mission in early June to Japan and South Korea and will engage in outreach to other countries, looking for new markets for Canadian canola. 

“It’s critical that Canadian exporters have other readily available markets when faced with trade disruptions,” he said.

Bilateral tensions have been running high since China detained two Canadians — actions widely seen as a response to Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S.

Trudeau has raised concerns about China’s detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, insisting that Beijing’s decision to arrest the two Canadians was arbitrary.

Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada called the action “good news” for producers dealing with unprecedented uncertainty.

Largest market ‘effectively closed’

“With our largest market for canola seed effectively closed, it’s important for everyone that producers can pay their bills while efforts are made to resolve the issue,” he said in a statement.

Everson said it’s an ideal time to bolster efforts to seek other customers and develop new markets by building on trade agreements, especially in Asia.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had promised Monday that help for canola farmers would be coming “in a few days.”

“Canadians know, of course, as do people around the world, that Canadian food inspection and the quality of Canadian agriculture and produce is world-class, and the processes we have cannot be beaten anywhere in the world,” he said.

The federal government is boosting loan guarantees to help Canadian canola farmers hurt by a trade dispute with China. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)