India rejects pulse imports which is a long-standing exemption on the pest treatment for peas and lentils in a blow to Canada's top export market for the crops.
The Federal Agriculture Minister spokesman Guy Gallant confirmed that the Indian government has not granted another six-month exemption which would have crops fumigated on arrival, rather than before the export, as has been allowed for more than a decade.
The decision puts Canada's pulse exports to the country, worth $1.1-billion in the year 2016 and $1.5-billion in the year 2015, in jeopardy because the required treatment of methyl bromide does not work in the cold and also is being phased out because it is damaging to the ozone layer. Carl Potts, the executive director of Saskatchewan Pulse Growers said that, India is our largest market for pulse crops for peas and lentils, so the importance of India can not be overstated.
He also said that, from the farmers perspective, ensuring we have the ongoing, continual market access is a very important priority for us.
Some shippers have already stopped accepting pulses for export to India over the fears that they will be rejected on arrival, since the current exemption expires at the end of March.
Gord Kurbis, the director of market access and trade at Pulse Canada, said officials at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and their Indian counterparts are working on a potential solution which could see Canada's system of management practices and controls stand in for the treatment before export.
But with the March deadline looming, he is worried there is not enough time for the scientists and regulators to approve the solution.
He also said that, he is hoping officials will step in and keep the trade open until a longer-term agreement is reached.
Gallant said that the federal government is still working for long-term solution, and that the issue will come up when the Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay visits India next week.
The trade issue comes after the exports of peas and lentils to India grew by 20 per cent a year between 2010 and 2015 to account for about a third of all pulse exports for the Canada's 12,000 pulse farmers.
The Pulse Canada says that the fumigation treatment is not needed because the insects India is concerned about are not in Canada, and the cold winters help to reduce the threat of other pests.
The issue carries some parallels to Canada's dispute in the last year over canola exports to China, which had set restrictions on the amount of detritus allowed in the shipments because of pest concerns.