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Ag sector watches for fallout from India-Canada spat

Disputes threaten $1.4 billion Canadian lentil exports.
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India represents a significant market for Canadian agricultural exports. About half of the country’s lentil imports come from Saskatchewan. Total value of Saskatchewan exports to India last year was $1.4 billion. But India has also at times implemented trade barriers that block those lentils.

WESTERN PRODUCER — The chief executive officer of a major Canadian pulse buyer and exporter said Sept. 21 he is closely watching political developments between Canada and India.

Murad Al-Katib from AGT Foods told reporters in Regina that waiting and watching is about all the agriculture sector can do right now. He said geopolitical risks are a major part of the industry, but he’s confident that once the political issues are resolved the long-term partnership between the two countries will continue.

“We have arable land and water that India doesn’t have. We have farmers that are able to produce at scale, at the lowest cost and highest quality, and India needs the food, so from that perspective we’re optimistic that politics will remain politics,” he said, adding that ensuring people have access to food is the most relevant political issue.

The two countries had been in trade talks until last week when Canada postponed a trade mission to India. On Sept. 18 prime minister Justin Trudeau said he had credible information that the Indian government was potentially involved in killing a British Columbia Sikh leader.

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons.

Since then each country has expelled diplomats and earlier today India suspended visa services for Canadian nationals.

India represents a significant market for Canadian agricultural exports. About half of the country’s lentil imports come from Saskatchewan. Total value of Saskatchewan exports to India last year was $1.4 billion.

However, India has also at times implemented trade barriers that block those lentils.

Al-Katib said agriculture and food should be left out of any action taken by countries.

“In every crisis in the world, even when we imposed the strictest economic sanctions on a country, we exclude basic foods from those sanctions,” he said.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister David Marit said he had heard this morning that some brokers are having challenges with deliveries in India, but he had no details.

“As a government we’ll do our part and see how this all works out and do what we can to mitigate the situation,” he said.

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