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Protectionist pressures and protests: Canadian durum wheat

Largest export market for Canadian durum facing challenges

By Kaitlynn Anderson


Singh_Lens/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

Recent protests by Italian farmers against durum wheat imports are a lot more complicated than meets the eye.

Last year, the Italian government proposed country of origin labelling for pasta in Italy. This labelling would require the pasta manufacturer to indicate on the packaging where the semolina was milled, as well as where the durum was grown, according to Cam Dahl, President of Cereals Canada.

“This would have a similar impact to the country of origin labelling on meat going into the U.S.,” says Dahl.

“It would significantly increase the cost of moving Canadian durum wheat into Italy and it would be prejudicial against our exports, so this is something that we have significant concerns about.”

This move is all part of a broader protectionist pressure coming from the Italian farm union to increase the value of Italian durum wheat, says Dahl.

How is this protection accomplished? By making it more expensive to export wheat into Italy, he says.

“Canada is the largest exporter of durum into Italy because we have the highest quality of durum wheat in the world. (Italian manufacturers) could not make the high-quality pasta that they are renowned for without using Canadian durum,” says Dahl.

Because of this, Canada has become a target of the Italian farm union. 

The consequences of this movement could be felt in both countries if the Italian government gives into these pressures.

Depending on the year, Italy is either the first or second largest export market for Canadian durum wheat. In the 2014-2015 crop year, Canada exported about 1.4 metric tonnes of durum to Italy, says Dahl. The following year, Canada exported 1.2 metric tonnes.

These Italian concerns have nothing to do with health and safety, reminds Dahl.

“Canada has a stellar reputation when it comes to the quality and safety of the products we export, and that applies to our durum wheat as well.”

The President of Cereals Canada hopes that the Italian government doesn’t give in to these protectionist pressures, and that Canada and Italy can continue in the spirit of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement.

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