Allegations of U.S. peas, lentils passed off as Canadian

File photo of a pea crop south of Ethelton, Sask. on Aug. 1, 2019. (Dave Bedard photo)

MarketsFarm — A company in the United States has alleged there are green peas and green lentils being shipped from the U.S. to Canada, then exported to China and India as being Canadian.

Jeff Van Pevenage, president of Columbia Grain at Portland, Ore., first made the allegations to the Western Producer in September. He said this practice has allegedly been going on for about six to eight months.

Van Pevenage told the Producer U.S. peas face a 25 per cent tariff when exported to China, whereas there isn’t a tariff for Canadian peas. Also, U.S. lentils are slapped with a 55 per cent tariff when going to India, compared to the 33 per cent levy for Canadian lentils.

Supporting Van Pevenage’s claim are data from Statistics Canada, which show almost 47,500 tonnes of peas and nearly 39,600 tonnes of lentils from the U.S. came into Canada in July alone. That compares to about 19,700 tonnes of peas and close to 16,800 tonnes of lentils imported from the U.S. into Canada for all of 2018.

“That’s where the distortion is coming and that’s where it’s allowing people to take advantage of the system, so to speak,” he said to MarketsFarm.

Although Columbia Grain has been unable to verify its claims, Van Pevenage remained adamant.

“I have no solid proof, but I can tell you that there are Chinese customers that have bragged about being able to do this. Chinese customers who clearly ask me if I would take our green peas and put them in Canada and call them Canadian,” he said.

Furthermore, Van Pevenage accused the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) of turning a blind eye to this practice. He said phytosanitary certificates would be required to identify the origin of the product.

In an email response to the allegations, the CFIA said it’s the responsibility of the exporters to correctly label the origin of the grain, especially when applying phytosanitary certificates from the agency.

CFIA, in its email, also stated India requires phytosanitary certificates for peas and lentils, and China requires such for peas, adding Canada currently doesn’t export lentils to China.

In addition, the Canadian Grain Commission said it has not seen anything crop up in its data to support Van Pevenage’s allegation.

“At this point, based on the statistical reporting we’re getting from our licensees, we’re not seeing that,” said Remi Gosselin, manager of corporate information services for the CGC.

As for the Canadian Special Crops Association (CSC), its spokesperson said the group won’t comment on accusations or allegations made by members of the trade.

“But I can assure you that the CSC works closely with the CFIA to ensure that our members are aware of their requirements for export,” said Tracy Shelton, vice-president of marketing and communications.

— Glen Hallick reports for MarketsFarm, a Glacier FarmMedia division specializing in grain and commodity market analysis and reporting. Includes files from Sean Pratt of the Western Producer.


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