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Alberta’s new agriculture minister reacts to China’s export permit suspensions which affect Red Deer pork plant

A file photo of Devin Dreeshen, Alberta's minister of agriculture and forestry.
A file photo of Devin Dreeshen, Alberta's minister of agriculture and forestry. Source: https://www.alberta.ca

Just two days after being sworn in as Alberta’s new agriculture minister, Devin Dreeshen was faced with news that China had suspended the export permits of two Canadian pork exporters, affecting a plant in Red Deer.

“We are deeply concerned by the action taken by the Chinese government and are taking immediate steps to help resolve the situation,” Dreeshen said in a statement issued Thursday evening.

“The federal government must find a resolution to these diplomatic disputes and restore access to our agricultural export markets. We are working with them to do so.”

Earlier in the day, news surfaced Quebec-based Olymel LP, which has a plant in Red Deer, was one of the exporters being sanctioned over allegedly mislabelled packaging. The other Canadian pork producer notified of a permit suspension from China was Drummond Export.

READ MORE: China suspended permits of 2 Canadian pork producers over labelling issue: industry group

Agriculture Canada was formally notified of the development on Wednesday.

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Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal minister of agriculture, said issues related to routine customs inspections come up now and again.

Bibeau added that aside from the two processing facilities who have had their export permits suspended, all other approved Canadian pork processing facilities remaining eligible to export to China.

“CFIA (the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) is looking into the situation and we are working with the Chinese importers and Chinese authorities to lift the suspension as soon as possible,” The Canadian Press quoted her as saying in an email.

The pork permit suspensions follow China’s recent decision to suspend canola imports from a pair of Canadian firms and come as the relationship between Canada and China remains tense ever since last December’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant in Vancouver.

READ MORE: Ottawa increases loan limits for canola farmers to $1 million amid China trade dispute

Watch below: Some Global News videos about Canada’s canola industry.

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“Alberta has offered up every technical and scientific capability we have to help work with Canada and the People’s Republic of China in this matter,” Dreeshen said.

According to the Canadian Pork Council, the suspensions appear to be the result of a labelling problem and are not tied to any political moves by China.

“From our understanding [of] what the plants are looking into, it is an exterior labelling problem that they’re going to be fixing,” said council spokesman Gary Stordy.

“Market access is a critical issue for Alberta’s farmers and ranchers and we are standing with them to ensure they continue to have access to the support programs they need,” Dreeshen said.

“Alberta, Canada and the other provinces have agreed to extend the AgriStability participation deadline to July 2, enabling Alberta producers affected by the Canada/China trade dispute to have access to business risk-management programs. The two-month sign-up extension will apply to all sectors.”

According to an industry website, Alberta pork producers raised 2.8-million pigs in 2017.

— With files from The Canadian Press’ Ross Marowits