Why would China target Richardsons?

(credit: Vancouver Fraser Port Authority; Colin Jewell Photography)

It has been a tumultuous 48 hours for the Canadian canola industry. After news broke that China had pulled Richardson International’s approval to ship into the country, we learn today via Reuters that now China is claiming that they discovered “hazardous pests” in shipments from Richardsons. If we can all agree that this finding” is retaliation against Canada for the arrest and extradition trial for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, then many are asking why Richardsons, specifically?

China believes that Canada fulfilled the U.S. extradition arrest of Meng for political reasons at a time the that the U.S. is negotiating a trade deal with China. Many of the G7 nations are evaluating if they should allow Huawei to operate within their borders, and China feels that Huawei has been individually targeted. If this export license issue with Richardsons is retaliation, China is stepping up its game.

I have received several emails and texts from the RealAg audience asking, “How does targeting western Canadian canola growers hurt Trudeau, because we are not voting for him anyways?” It’s a good question that we may be able to answer if we dig deeper.

Richardson’s is a Canadian-based company that is the largest exporter of canola. It not only has field offices and crush capacity across the Prairies, but it’s also based in Winnipeg, the home of Canadian Minister of Trade Diversification, Jim Carr. Minister Carr’s riding is Winnipeg South Centre, and the prevalence of the Richardson name in the city is very high including the name of the international airport.

The connections between Carr and Richardsons are deeper than just location, as tweeted by Manitoba-based farmer (also my former radio side-kick) Kelvin Heppner.

By targeting one company, China is able to impact the entire industry but not cut off all shipments.

Richardson’s made the following statement to the Financial Post, “I think that we are being caught in the middle of a much larger dispute,” Jean-Marc Ruest, senior vice president of global affairs and general counsel for Richardson International said in an interview. “As a large Canadian corporation, there is a certain motivation to target Richardson.”

It should also not be lost on anyone that Richardsons made it very clear they no longer wanted to participate as a member of the Canola Council of Canada, and pulled its membership last year.

Similar to Huawei in Canada, Richardsons is now up against a political China wall that puts their ability to operate in jeopardy in the short term.

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