Mexico shuts door on Canadian canaryseed, again: CSCA

The Mexican government has again “slammed shut” its ports to Canadian canaryseed after the expiry Tuesday of an interim agreement that allowed exports to continue.

Mexican officials in June 2010 began automatically rejecting any shipments of canaryseed found to contain quarantined weed seeds, without allowing them to go for recleaning. A temporary agreement was reached in January under which zero tolerance on weed seeds was still enforced, but shipments found to be clear of the quarantined weeds can proceed to their buyers.

“While negotiations are still underway, terms of a new agreement have not been reached and there is no indication when trade will resume,” the Canadian Special Crops Association said in a release Thursday.

The CSCA’s CEO, Gordon Bacon, described the resumption of the ban as a “failure in plant quarantine diplomacy,” noting Mexico is Canada’s largest canaryseed market and Canada has been Mexico’s main supplier.

“For nearly a year, government officials have been negotiating a solution, and the expiry of the agreement is a failure to ensure that trade can continue,” he said. “Canadian farmers, Canadian processors, Mexican processors and Mexican customers are the ones that will suffer as a result… A missed deadline means missed sales.”

There’s no evidence that other imported products are subject to the same “extreme level of scrutiny on weed seeds” as is being applied to Canadian canaryseed, the CSCA said.

“The failure of negotiations with Mexico points to the strong need to have science-based approaches to assessing risk, managing risk, and ensuring that there are policies that fit for all crops,” Bacon said. “Zero-tolerance policies create a huge risk to trade and to production, and as illustrated with canary seed shipments to Mexico, inevitably bring trade to a halt.”

The CSCA said it will continue to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and, through its trade partners, with Senasica, Mexico’s national food safety agency, to restore access to the “critical market” for canaryseed.

The temporary six-month agreement had been reached in January when it became apparent a permanent agreement wasn’t going to happen in the near future, the CSCA said at the time.

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