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Agriculture

Bibeau presses Chinese counterpart on canola ban at G20 ministers’ meeting

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OTTAWA — Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she used a G20 ministers’ meeting in Japan to press her Chinese counterpart for the evidence behind Beijing’s bans on Canadian canola.

The overture follows last week’s intervention by Canada at a major World Trade Organization meeting to demand China deliver proof that Canadian canola is contaminated.

China has stonewalled requests for Canadian experts to examine Chinese evidence that two canola shipments had pests, and there was no sign Wednesday the Canadian food inspectors would receive travel visas from Beijing any time soon.

Bibeau made clear Canada’s persistent prodding of China and her Chinese counterpart would continue as the uncertainty and strain of declining Sino-Canadian relations was on full display.

“All of the G20 was about having a rule-based trade order and I’m confident that he will relay our conversation to his colleague responsible for customs China,” Bibeau said. 

China’s rejection of Canadian food products is part of the escalating tension following the RCMP’s December arrest in Vancouver of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou. The Chinese telecom giant is at the centre of a mounting political battle, which was on display Wednesday, over whether it will equip Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.

Nine days after Meng’s arrest, China imprisoned two Canadians — ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor — and accused them of violating China’s national security. Spavor received his seventh consular visit Wednesday, a day after Kovrig’s seventh, as both men remain locked in a Chinese prison without formal charges and no access to lawyers.

Meng’s arrest has outraged China’s communist leaders. Meanwhile, Huawei denies the U.S. allegations that its new, next generation digital communications equipment is an organ of Chinese-state espionage.

President Donald Trump effectively banned Huawei from the U.S. on Wednesday when he signed an executive order declaring a national emergency over what the Commerce Department deemed as “threats to the information and communications technology and services supply chain by foreign adversaries.”

Conservatives mounted more pressure on the Trudeau government Wednesday to follow Trump’s lead and ban Huawei from supplying equipment for the Canada’s fifth-generation wireless networks.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the government should have already selected one of Huawei’s rivals to be Canada’s next 5G provider. 

“They should have made a decision much earlier. Had they done that, they could have taken this off the table,” Scheer said after meeting with his caucus. 

“We have two Canadians being held illegally in China. We’ve seen actions against Canadian canola exports now moving into pork exports,” he added.

“All along the way, the government of China is escalating the situation and Justin Trudeau has done absolutely nothing about it.”

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the government will take the time it needs to make an informed decision about which company it will select to serve its 5G needs.

“It is a huge enabling new technology that has enormous potential, but it also carries with it, depending on the supply chain, some significant risks,” he said, “and we want to make sure that all of that is factored very carefully into a Canadian decision so we get the advantages of the technology, but we do not in any way comprise national security.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government will take “a measured approach to how we deal with companies in Canada and with our international relations.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

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Agriculture

Olymel temporarily closes due to COVID-19

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This is a news release from Olymel L.P.

Olymel announces the temporary closing of its Red Deer plant

Olymel management is announcing the temporary closing of its hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning plant in Red Deer, Alberta. Despite the testing protocols and sanitary measures already in place, as well as the close collaboration of Alberta Health Services to deal with a resurgence of positive cases of Covid-19 among plant employees, Olymel management believes that the conditions are no longer assembled to continue normal operations in a safe and efficient manner.

After notifying the union, Olymel management drew up an orderly temporary closing plan for an indefinite period. Over the next few days, plant management will mobilize the staff necessary to cease operations and complete the facility closure as soon as possible. The sanitary measures will continue to be in effect at the plant during the shutdown and Olymel management will be in contact with officials at Alberta Health Services to continue working closely with this organization.

Olymel sincerely hopes that all employees at the Red Deer plant who have tested positive for Covid-19 soon regain their health. The company will follow up with all employees to ensure their quarantine period is being respected and will strongly encourage all staff to get tested before returning to work. Olymel will also continue ongoing investigations to determine what may have caused such a large outbreak of Covid-19 cases since January 20.

Olymel management has also informed all hog suppliers of the Red Deer plant of the situation and has suspended all pending deliveries until further notice.

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Agriculture

What’s going on in India?

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In many places around the world, the global turmoil of 2020 has been deeply exacerbated by accompanying political violence. The United States, Belarus, and India are just a few locations that have faced growing levels of internal violence and discord as political protests have led to dangerous clashes between citizens and governing bodies. 

In India, where the COVID-19 pandemic has been rampant throughout the course of 2020, citizens have also experienced ongoing political uncertainty as recent protests against the Narendra Modi government have been met with violence. 

Prime Minister Narenda Modi

The upheaval began in August in response to the Modi government’s decision to pass 3 reform laws that would negatively impact local farmers in India’s agricultural sector. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, the Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities Bill were passed on September 20, 2020. These laws, which were allegedly hurried through parliament with little to no regard for the concerns expressed by existing farming organizations in India, serve to ease corporate restrictions and remove regulations put in place to protect farmers and their product. 

Although there does appear to be a consensus surrounding the need for reform in India’s agricultural sector, the laws passed by the Modi government have been condemned for failing to meet the requirements of a fair, legitimate transition. According to Time, “While the government says the new laws will “empower farmers”, unions say the rule changes are not policies they have asked for. Instead they fear that instead of trying to help farmers, the government is opening the door to big corporations who may eventually force them off their land and out of their business.” 

Peaceful protests then emerged as a public response to the actions of the Modi government. The protests, which originated in Punjab and Haryana as a collaborative movement among Indian farmers, have since mobilized tens of thousands of farmers and supporters from across the country to march on the Indian capital. The protestors flooded New Delhi’s main entry points, where they have since set up camps to maintain their position and stand firmly for their cause, requesting the repeal of the 3 reform bills. 

Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, where many of the participants are senior members of the community, since September they have been increasingly met with violence from the state. “Protestors have been met with water cannons on some of the coldest winter days Delhi has experienced,” Global News reported in December, “along with tear gas, concrete barricades, and some were even beaten with batons.” As a result of state-mandated violence and harsh outdoor conditions in Delhi, a total of 65 deaths were reported between November 26, 2020 and January 3, 2021 (1).
Individuals and organizations around the world have since come forward to stand in solidarity with Indian farmers and condemn the acts of violence being perpetrated against them by military and law enforcement. 

On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, the Indian Supreme Court announced it was “halting the market-friendly laws until a committee of experts, appointed by the court, could consult with government officials and protesting farmers to try to find a solution to the dispute” (2). However, protestors have expressed initial skepticism following this announcement, and intend to maintain their positions within the protest camps until the laws are repealed. 

“It’s cold and it’s hard to arrange water every morning for a bath,” says Shabek Singh, a member of the protests who remains camped in one of the established tent cities, “but we’re not going anywhere. We will make this our temple” (3).

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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