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‘Business as usual’ says Saudi-backed Canadian Wheat Board owners

The Canadian Wheat board is owned by G3 Ltd.
The Canadian Wheat board is owned by G3 Ltd. Elisha Dacey/Global News

The owners of the Saudi Arabia-backed Canadian Wheat Board says despite escalating diplomatic tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada, everything there is running normally.

“It’s business as usual,” G3 vice-president Brett Malkoske told Reuters.

The Saudi-Canada feud began after Global Affairs Canada called for the “immediate release” of women’s rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah over the weekend.

In response, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expelled Canada’s ambassador, froze new trade and investment, suspended a student exchange program and halted flights by state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines to Canada for what it called “blatant interference” in its domestic affairs.

In 2015, the CWB was taken over by the state-owned Saudi Agricultural and Livestock Investment Co. and U.S. grain company Bunge. Now known as G3 Ltd., the majority-controlled Saudi firm said it has no plans to change or reduce its purchases of Canadian crops.

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The Saudi government has not said whether it will sell its stake in G3.

WATCH: U.S. State Dept. urges Canada, Saudi Arabia to resolve dispute

U.S. State Department urges Canada, Saudi Arabia to resolve dispute
U.S. State Department urges Canada, Saudi Arabia to resolve dispute

Chuck Penner, an analyst based in Winnipeg with LeftField Commodity Research, told Global News that if Saudi Arabia were to sell off its stake in G3 the impact on Canada would be “relatively seamless.”

“We’ve bought and sold grain companies before and business continues to go on,” Penner said. “Even if that was included in the list of assets they want to sell, I don’t think it would have a huge impact.”

READ MORE: As Saudi-Canada feud escalates, here’s how axing armoured vehicle deal could hurt Trudeau in 2019

The Saudi Grains Organization announced it is halting purchases of wheat and barley from Canada, but it was unclear whether this move affected only new purchases or delivery on previously agreed contracts.

According to Statistics Canada, the total amount of Canadian wheat sales to Saudi Arabia, excluding durum, was 66,000 tonnes in 2017 and 68,250 tonnes in 2016. Canadian barley sales totaled 132,000 tonnes in 2017.

“This is really a symbolic type of thing,” he said. “Canada won’t have any trouble selling its wheat and barley elsewhere.”

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On Wednesday, the kingdom suspended all medical treatment programs in Canada and looked to transfer Saudi patients out of the country. Saudi Arabia said there is no room for mediation on the escalating diplomatic spat and that Ottawa knows how to “fix its big mistake.”

“There is nothing to mediate,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh. “A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected.”