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Canola. Reuters file photo.

Canada presses China in canola trade spat

OTTAWA - Canada is urging the Chinese government to stick to scientific facts in decisions on trade as Beijing plans to toughen its standard on Canadian canola shipments, Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said on Thursday.

China's quarantine authority, AQSIQ, notified the Canadian Food Inspection Agency last month that it would allow no more than 1 percent foreign material, called dockage, in canola shipments starting April 1. The current allowable range is 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

Exporters say the new standard by Canada's biggest canola export market will be difficult and costly to meet.

"I understand fully. It's worth C$2 billion ($1.49 billion)in canola trade to China," MacAulay told Reuters. "All our trading partners, we want to make sure the decisions they make are science-based decisions.

"Hopefully, it will be resolved."

Industry group Canola Council of Canada has said the dispute is over differing views about the risk of transmitting to Chinese fields the common fungus blackleg, through dockage. Some traders in both countries say the real issue is that China has ample stocks of rapeseed oil and wants to slow imports.

The countries have collaborated for years on research of blackleg after China raised concerns in 2009.

No Canadian minister has yet discussed the issue with a Chinese counterpart, MacAulay said, adding that communication is between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and AQSIQ officials.

Canola, also known as rapeseed, is crushed mainly to produce vegetable oil. Canada is the world's biggest canola exporter.