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Agriculture

Officials flagged 900 food items from China with ‘problems’ over two years

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OTTAWA — Canadian inspectors intercepted nearly 900 food products from China over concerns about faulty labels, unmentioned allergens and harmful contaminants that included glass and metal between 2017 and early 2019, according to internal federal records.

The document provides an inside look at imports from China that caught the attention of officials for appearing to fall short of Canadian standards — from gum balls with “extraneous” metal, to three-minute chow mein that contained an insect, to spicy octopus feet flagged for a “non-specific hazard.”

The list, compiled by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, was obtained through access-to-information law.

Its release comes at a time of significant public interest in Canada about cross-border food inspections, especially those involving China.

The scrutiny of agricultural goods has been central to a diplomatic dispute between Canada and its second-biggest trading partner. Bilateral frictions have intensified since the December arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver and China’s subsequent detention of two Canadians on espionage allegations.

The governing Liberals have come under pressure from rival Conservatives to respond by taking a harder line when it comes to Chinese imports.

In recent weeks, China asked Canada to suspend all its meat-export certificates to the Asian country after Chinese customs inspectors detected residue from a restricted feed additive, called ractopamine, in a batch of Canadian pork products. A statement by China’s embassy in Ottawa said the investigation uncovered at least 188 forged veterinary health certificates and argued the Canadian system had “obvious safety loopholes.”

Chinese authorities have also blocked imports of Canadian canola seeds, alleging they found pests in some shipments. The federal government says it has tried unsuccessfully to send a delegation of inspectors to China to examine the evidence.

The economic consequences of China’s trade actions on Canadian food shipments, as well as the detentions of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, are widely seen as attempts by Beijing to pressure the Liberal government into releasing Meng.

The list from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency shows it’s not uncommon for inspectors to raise concerns about imports from China.

Between the beginning of 2017 and the end of February this year, agency officials “detected problems” with 889 food or food ingredient imports into Canada from China, according to the document.

Only four food shipments, however, from China were refused entry into Canada over that period, CFIA’s quarterly reports show.

An agency spokeswoman said CFIA investigates concerns to determine if it’s a hazard or fails to comply with Canadian standards. When necessary, she said officials take action — including minor label corrections, recalls, product seizure, entry refusals and the cancellation of licences.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in an emailed statement that the issues in the CFIA list do not necessarily correlate to a particular problem with imported food products from foreign countries.

“This is a list of cases reported to the CFIA that informs operational and follow-up activities to verify compliance and take any appropriate actions, in accordance with laws and regulations,” Bibeau said.

“The Canadian food safety system is strong and recognized as one of the best in the world and the government is confident in all products approved by the CFIA as safe for local consumption as well as for export.”

The list only provides numbers for China and does not include comparable numbers for Canada’s other trading partners.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer recently called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to step up inspections on all products from China and to consider slapping tariffs on imports.

Bibeau’s office has said Canada has no intention of increasing inspections on Chinese imports.

Sylvanus Kwaku Afesorgbor, an expert in agri-food trade and policy, wrote in an email that Canada would likely take a long time before implementing actions against Chinese imports.

“Canada will always play to the rules and exhaust all democratic channels available through international trade agreements such as (the World Trade Organization),” wrote Afesorgbor, an assistant professor at the University of Guelph.

“Any retaliatory action may result in trade war and that may negatively affect the two countries.”

Glenford Jameson, a Toronto-based lawyer with expertise in the food sector, said the CFIA list provides an extra level of detail that’s usually omitted from public documents. He added that none of the concerns flagged in the document are highly unusual.

“This list is a list that wouldn’t be surprising from any country, including the United States, and is really just a byproduct of having a stringent food-inspection and food-regulatory system,” Jameson said.

“No food commodity is traded at 100 per cent perfect compliance all the time.”

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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Agriculture

Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

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Canadian Agriculture More Energy Intensive, More Efficient

It’s no secret that agriculture has contributed to climate change through various means. For example, you may know that livestock generates greenhouse gas emissions due to how farms process it. That said, it’s now clear that farmers have found sustainable ways to offset those contributions. In Canada, it’s all about energy use.

Here’s how Canadian farmers have become more efficient as they raise crops and livestock, setting a standard the world should follow.

Energy Demand and Consumption Have Fluctuated

The demand for energy has increased across the agricultural sector as a whole. However, it’s key to note that farmers have begun to use less energy despite that fact. That points to more efficient practices. The farmers who complete their work productively save time, money and energy. As a result, Canadian workers have reduced their energy consumption per dollar by 17%. That’s thanks to sustainability.

The most common energy sources include fuel, gas and electricity. It’s how farmers use those resources that counts. Combined with technology choices and new practices, it’s clear that efficiency is more achievable than ever.

What Contributes to This Phenomenon?

It’s crucial for people in agriculture to explore eco-friendly alternatives. The grasslands that many western Canadian farmers cultivate contains excess carbon, so you can imagine what the country as a whole holds underneath its surface. Farmers have now adopted new methods to adjust how they harvest their crops. These systems are better for production, as well as soil and seed health overall.

The agriculture industry has gone through many changes, too. There are fewer farms — but those that still operate have employed agricultural technology to be as efficient as possible. These tools include different equipment that cuts down on time to increase proficiency. Plus, it’s now more common to use solar power as an alternative to traditional energy solutions.

Why Accuracy and Precision Matters

It’s a lot easier to be energy efficient when you don’t waste your resources. The means farmers practiced before they used specific innovations often created a time deficit. If you have a smaller machine, you likely need to do twice as much work. However, when you have access to equipment that fits your field, you don’t have to be as wasteful. The accuracy and precision created by technology make this a reality.

Soil Conservation Is Led by Ranchers

Many farmers have looked to ranchers for help. It’s a native part of ranching to preserve topsoil and other elements that are inherently sustainable. As a result, it seems like ranchers have been leading the charge against climate change for decades. The tactics they use to avoid tilling soil, for example, help preserve the amount of carbon that lies underneath the Earth’s surface.

The “no-till” practice is efficient in its own right. Rather than till your soil to plant a new crop, you simply leave behind what’s already there. This method is much better for soil nutrition, and it can keep carbon exposure at bay. As a result, you have much fewer carbon emissions. In general, the idea of soil conservation isn’t a new one, but old tricks can still work alongside modern technology.

The Future of Agriculture in Canada Looks Bright

If farmers continue on this path, it’ll be clear that climate solutions are at the forefront of their minds. These efforts create more benefits for them as they save time and money. Plus, there’s always the responsibility of maintaining the planet’s health. After all, without a strong ecosystem, agriculture would suffer. Through means that are more accurate and conservative, Canadian farmers have been able to become more efficient. Click here read more stories by Emily Folk. 

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.

 

 

How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand

 

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Agriculture

How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand

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How Canadian Dairy Farms Can Adjust to New Dairy Demand

Many changes occurred around the world as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In Canada, while schools and businesses closed, consumers flocked to the supermarkets to buy essentials.

Perishable goods flew off the shelves, resulting in limits being placed on items like dairy and poultry. The standard distribution system schedule put in place for dairy products could not keep up with buyers’ increased shopping.

While retail demand from grocers skyrocketed, orders from the foodservice industry plummeted. This has resulted in unforeseen fluctuations in the dairy market.

Hotels, restaurants, schools and eateries are closed or operating at limited capacity. As a result, there is now an enormous surplus of milk that has nowhere to go. Farmers are not equipped with storage spaces to accommodate the excess supply. Unlike agriculture products like potatoes, milk has to be sold immediately or risk spoilage.

Cows will continue producing milk, regardless of fluctuations in the market. While farmers have the option to reduce the size of their herd or change diet or nutrition, these things could prove detrimental when the market stabilizes.

The Supply Management System

A supply management system controls production quotas and imports for Canadian dairy, chicken, turkey and eggs. It was established in the1970s to coordinate production and demand while simultaneously controlling imports. By operating under this method, prices are stabilized for both producers and consumers.

A national agency represents each industry, and they are in charge of setting production levels that match provincial demand. Farmers in each province are allocated production quotas that are meant to prevent surpluses or shortages.

The original quotas were based on consumer needs pre-pandemic. As a result of these unforeseen events, farmers must now adjust to the new Canadian dairy demand. Here are four main ways farmers can adapt to the changing times.

  1. Dump the Milk

Producers say that discarding raw milk is inevitable at this stage. Farmers are reporting that they have been asked to take turns dumping milk. Although they’re paid for it, the waste could amount to as much as 5 million litres every week.

This disposal method is unsustainable and should only be utilized while the market is above capacity. Cows must continue to be milked to keep them comfortable and healthy, and production must continue to ensure product availability in retail stores.

  1. Donate to Food Banks

Rather than dumping milk, some farmers have begun donating to food banks to support Canadians in need. While this is a positive form of dispersing the milk surplus, it has the potential to overwhelm food banks that may not have the storage capacity to support this influx.

Additionally, the raw milk provided from farmers must be processed, which complicates the standard donation process.

  1. Improve Operations

Dairy farmers should focus on improving operations to become more efficient and cost-effective. Many producers have begun investing in updated equipment and robotics to save time and money.  Competition is set to increase as a result of import growth projected for the next decade. To maintain a market edge, operations should be improved and simplified wherever possible.

  1. Expand or Retire

In 2019, the Canadian federal government announced an aid package valued at $1.75 billion to compensate supply-managed dairy producers over an eight-year period. The Dairy Direct Payment Program is one part of this aid package and provides $345 million payments as compensation during 2019 and 2020.

The aid package was proposed as a result of import shifts. The Canadian government has opened part of its domestic market to foreign producers as part of several free-trade negotiations. To adapt to increased competition from foreign products, Canadian producers should plan to expand their operations or retire. Larger farms will be able to sustain demand while simultaneously upgrading their methods to be constantly improving.

Smaller producers may not be able to afford the necessary production updates to keep up with competitors.

Future Demand

These are unprecedented circumstances. As schools, businesses and restaurants reopen, dairy demand will increase. With indoor capacity requirements and shifts in consumer trends, consumption levels will undoubtedly continue to fluctuate.

While farmers should take steps to dispose of surplus responsibly, they should not halt production or decrease their operation size.

Read more from Emily Folk

I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation.  You can read more of my work by clicking this link: Conservation Folks.

Canadian Federal Government Taking Measures to Reduce Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

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