Canada’s agriculture minister said on Wednesday that her department officials have told her the Chinese government has suspended the export permits of two Canadian pork exporters, marking the latest irritant in a widening diplomatic dispute.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in an interview with Brampton news that she has not yet received an official notice from China of the permit suspensions, and would not recognize the companies included. She said both pork makers are situated in the nation’s eastern province of Quebec.

“We need to investigate this,” she said by phone from Ottawa. “It may be just administrative. We may almost certainly manage the circumstance effectively. I can’t guess on why the grants have been suspended.”

Canada-China ties turned icy last December when police in Vancouver arrested Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant.

Since then, China has arrested two Canadians and halted canola imports from two Canadian companies.

Bibeau said she did not know when the pork permit suspensions took effect.

A week ago, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said some Canadian pork shipments to China had been delayed because exporters used outdated forms that certify the cargoes meet Chinese requirements.

The license suspensions are additionally because of administrative work issues, in spite of the fact that not a similar issue as previously, as per Gary Stordy, a representative for the Canadian Pork Council, which speaks to Canadian hog farmers.

Stordy said the suspensions applied to two processing plants in Quebec.

The biggest pork exporter in Quebec, Olymel LP, did not react to demands for input.

Canada, the world’s third-largest pork exporter, has shipped more pork this year to China, where the domestic pig herd has been ravaged by African swine fever (ASF). China bought C$514 million ($382.5 million) worth of Canadian pork in 2018.

“With African swine fever, and the fact (the Chinese) are very big consumers of pork and here in Canada we are free from ASF, it’s surprising that this is happening,” Bibeau said.
China is the largest global producer and consumer of pork.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Canadian government offered financial assistance to canola farmers who have been hit by a Chinese ban on imports and said it was looking to diversify into other markets.

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