By Jonathan Martin
The federal government is expanding its Advance Payments Program (APP) in response to the ongoing trade dispute with China.
Minster of International Trade Diversification Jim Carr and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Marie-Claude Bibeau announced a $600,000 increase in loan money available to farmers, bringing the total up to $1 million.
Canola farmers will receive up to $500,000 of that interest-free.
The APP is a federal loan guarantee program that provides cash advances to agricultural producers.
Bibeau also announced an extension to the AgriStability program enrolment deadline from April 30 to July 2, 2019. AgriStability helps farmers offset losses when they experience a margin decline beyond 70 per cent.
Bibeau and Carr met with reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons in Ottawa. The government also livestreamed the meeting through several social media platforms.
“We know that farmers deal with many different pressures that can affect their mental health,” Bibeau said in her address. “Trade uncertainties can add to their stress.”
The trade dilemma with China began when China started blocking shipments of Canadian canola. Many suspect the move was in retaliation for the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, in connection with the company’s alleged string of corporate crimes. Wanzhou is charged with sanctions violations.
China is Canada’s largest buyer of canola seed, accounting for $3.6 billion of exports in 2017. In the first quarter of 2018, raw canola exports to China were up 24 per cent.
On March 6, 2019, however, China said it found “dangerous pests” in canola shipped from Richardson International and blocked its shipments.
On March 26, China reported finding “several hazardous organisms” in canola from Viterra Inc. and stopped its shipments.
Since then, China has blocked all canola exports, the Canola Council of Canada reports. China has moved on to blocking other product, CBC reports.
In his address, Carr said that the federal government would “continue to navigate the challenging period with China through careful, deliberate and strategic engagement.
“Our first strategy,” he said, “is to engage the Chinese government on the basis of its allegation. Secondly, to provide a support package to producers and, thirdly, to continue market diversification.”
Carr has been working with the federal government to expand Canada’s trade deals with the United States, Europe, Mexico and Asia-Pacific nations by making “unprecedented” investments in trade promotion, he said.
As of now, the feds have no plan to involve the World Trade Organization in the Canadian-Chinese trade dispute, Bibeau and Carr said.