'Future is pretty bright': Sask. farmers celebrate China's move to lift canola ban

With spring seeding in Saskatchewan well underway, farmers are beginning the growing season with some added assurance.

After three years, China has lifted the ban on Canadian canola.

Last week, China reinstated market access for two Canadian grain trading companies – Richardson International Ltd. and Viterra Inc., ending a three year diplomatic dispute.

“China has always been an important customer of Canada and Saskatchewan, and unfortunately, when they put the policy in place it definitely hurt the price of canola especially two, three years ago,” Agriculture Producers Association of Saskatchewan second vice president Todd Lewis said.

“At this point, we have great demand for canola and canola products and this is just going to increase that demand. So it is good news.”

According to figures from Canola Council of Canada, seed exports to China have fallen from $2.8 billion in 2018 before the restrictions, to $800 million in 2019, $1.4 billion in 2020 and $1.8 billion in 2021.

The council said the Chinese ban cost the industry between $1.54 and $2.35 billion from lost sales and lower prices between March 2019 and August 2020 alone.

“This is a positive step forward, restoring full trade in canola with China and ensuring that all Canadian exporters are treated equally by the Chinese administration,” Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, said on the group’s website.

Canada is the world’s largest producer of canola, with Saskatchewan playing a major part in that.

“Well, Saskatchewan is the world leader in canola,” Lewis said. “The future is pretty bright this year for those producers that can grow some canola, especially after last year's weather-related issues.”

Jim Wickett farms in the Rosetown area. While he didn’t grow canola last year, he said he certainly felt the pinch created by China’s ban.

“I think every farmer was directly impacted. It certainly affected some of the other oil seeds. (It’s) just the nature of the market. The prices go down or are in some kind of relation to the oil complex. That artificially held the price down, (then) we had a large drought last year, and that certainly set the stage for prices to climb,” he said.

While he can’t determine what will happen to the market in the coming months, he doesn’t imagine the ban being lifted will greatly impact canola prices this spring and summer.

However, Lewis thinks having one more place for farmers to market their canola and therefore creating more competition in the marketplace should be beneficial for the provincial economy.

“We're going through a stage now where food is being seen as more and more important, and we're fortunate here in Saskatchewan. We have an abundance of production and we export so much of our crop and it really is a major driver in the economy here in the province,” he said.

One concern for all producers is the rising costs of getting seed in the ground. With inflation sending fuel prices to record highs, having any export bans lifted on Saskatchewan’s most notable crop is welcome news for producers.

“Probably the most expensive crop we're ever going to put into the ground between diesel fuel prices and fertilizer prices and other inputs as well,” Lewis said.

“So, it's important that we have good canola prices, and it's really gonna help the viability of the industry here in the province.” 

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