Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan


Canary Seed growers want gov't action on Mexican trade dispute

By Joanne Paulsen, The Western Producer
Re-printed with permission

January 10, 2012

Saskatchewan canary seed growers resolved yesterday to press the Canadian government for more help in protecting sales to their best market — Mexico.

There was no opposition to the resolution at a Canary Seed Development Commission of Saskatchewan meeting during Crop Production Week in Saskatoon.

Executive director Kevin Hursh said the CSDCS believes only high level political intervention is likely to resolve the issue, which centres on Mexico’s zero tolerance policy on weed seeds in shipments.

Therefore, the group has voted to approach federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz for his assistance for a second time.

“The government has tackled it at a number of high levels,” said Hursh, but the lack of progress is not satisfying all growers.

“Growers are going to vote for a resolution that says do something about this and fix it.

“We want to try to keep it on their radar screen.”

A year and a half ago, Mexico slowed canary seed imports from Canada by enforcing a zero tolerance policy on quarantine weed seeds such as wild buckwheat, stinkweed and cow cockle.

Trade stopped until a temporary agreement was reached, which allowed non-compliant shipments from Canada to be recleaned in Mexico. Sales resumed, but the interim agreement expired June 21, 2011, despite government attempts to negotiate a solution.

As of mid-August, 2011, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can only issue a phytosanitary certificate for shipments containing zero quarantine weed seeds.

The CSDCS wrote to Ritz last fall to ask for his involvement in the issue. Ritz had previously intervened in July 2010, and the CSDCS thought the issue was resolved at that time.

Canary Seed seems to be the target for a higher weed-free standard than other crops. Hursh noted that millet, another grain used in bird food, is not subject to the same tolerances, although that could be because separation of weed seeds out of millet may be easier due to the larger size of the grain.

Further complicating negotiations is that, from a Mexican point of view, canary seed is a minor import and does not represent a human food issue, said Hursh.

“It’s not something that’s going to create a furor in Mexico.”

Trade issues aside, some canary seed is still going to the Mexican market, although it costs Canadian producers more to export it.

“There is more canary seed moving into Mexico even after the higher restriction than I might have expected,” said Hursh.

Shipments of canary seed are still getting into Mexico from producers whose crops are already quite clean, by thorough sampling and by taking a high level of care in cleaning, said Hursh.

Prices also seem to be holding steady at about 27 cents per pound.

Mexico is Canada’s largest canary seed customer, taking 25 percent of exports. Other markets include the United States, European Union and Brazil.

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