Saudi Arabian wheat ban a 'concern' for Sask: Government official

By Nigel Maxwell
August 9, 2018 - 5:00pm Updated: August 10, 2018 - 9:38am

The loss of any market is a concern for Saskatchewan, according to a spokesperson with Saskatchewan's Ministry of Agriculture in response to news of Saudi Arabia closing its border to Canadian wheat and barley.

James Kettel, executive director with the trade and value added branch of the ministry, told farmnewsnow Saudi Arabia is a hit-and-miss market for Saskatchewan.

"In 2017 we sent a significant amount of barley 97,000 from tonnes from Saskatchewan and in total 198,000 but if you go back to 2015, there was zero," he said.

Earlier this week Saudi Arabia ceased new trade and banned Canadian wheat imports, in response to a tweet sent from Global Affairs Canada, critizing the kingdom for its detention of of several human rights activists.

Kettel said while the recent wheat ban had more to do with politics than trade, it did highlight a trend in market access issues for Canada, such as the recent pulse tariffs imposed India. Kettel said there has been a noticeable shift in trade relations.

"There seems to be a lot more willingness to start less support for free trade and open trade, and more willingness to restrict access which for an exporting province like Saskatchewan is a concern," Kettel said.

The news is not all bad. Kettel said there has been increased demand on Canada, to export wheat, barley and canola to other countries such as China.

"Maybe we are starting to see benefits from the trade war with the US and China, so maybe that will help offset some of these concerns [with Saudia Arabia]," he said.

Kettel said there could also be some opportunity coming from Mexico, who are also to looking to diversify away from the United States. This fall, agriculture ministers from Canada will meet with agriculture officials from the U.S. and Mexico at the tri-national ag accord meeting in Mexico.

"I think if we were to go down we would probably look to do some work to promote some other opportunities," Kettel said.


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On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell


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