Canadian government still monitoring and "considering options" regarding fertilizer sanctions

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The Canadian government is still looking at additional measures to reduce the impact of 35 per cent tariffs on fertilizer from Russia and Belarus, according to the federal agriculture minister.

However, Marie-Claude Bibeau isn’t saying what those measures could be.

Farm groups, including Grain Farmers of Ontario and Grain Growers of Quebec, have been calling on the government to take immediate action to eliminate the burden on farmers caused by sanctions on Russian fertilizer at a time when most fertilizers are in tight supply and already at record high prices. Farmers say the tariffs have also led to price increases on fertilizer that was not part of sanctioned shipments.

“We’re following the situation closely, having regular conversations with representatives of the different sectors to understand where the needs are, where the gaps are, and there are some options that we are considering right now,” said Bibeau, on Saturday (May 14) after meeting with agriculture ministers and secretaries from other G7 countries in Stuttgart, Germany.

“I want to put the emphasis on the fact we made sure the vessels, the boats, the fertilizers did get to Canada for farmers to have access to these fertilizers, and that we have made some changes to the Advance Payments Program to allow farmers in general across the country to have the cash flow they need to be able to face the situation right now with high input costs,” she said (referring to this announcement regarding cash advances in early April).

Other countries, including members of the G7, have not targeted fertilizer to the same extent as Canada in their sanctions against Russia. The U.S. notably issued a carve-out or exemption to specifically allow purchases of fertilizer products from Russia in late March.

At the same time, crop production in Eastern Canada is very reliant on nitrogen fertilizer from Russia and Belarus. Up to 680 thousand tonnes of nitrogen are imported from Russia to Eastern Canada annually, representing 85-90 per cent of the total nitrogen fertilizer used in the region, according to Fertilizer Canada.

Much of the G7 ministers’ meeting on May 13 and 14 focused on the impact of the war in Ukraine and assistance for the country’s agriculture sector, as the ministers were joined by Ukraine’s agriculture minister on Friday.

They discussed the logistical requirements and scenarios for getting grain out of Ukraine, as the war has blocked movement through major port terminals in southern Ukraine — the country’s main export routes. Canada’s contribution will likely involve phytosanitary and technical support when grain is exported via non-traditional routes, said Bibeau.

“This is a very specific request that has been made to us, and this is something that we’re already working on with our Ukrainian counterparts,” she noted. “When we want to move food, we have to produce export certificates to make sure of the quality of the food. This is something we’ll be working on with them to see how we can provide technical assistance or equipment in this regard.”

She also noted Canada will be increasing its funding for the G20 Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) to provide analysis regarding the food security impact, food price volatility, and food stock levels as a result of the war.

Read the G7 Agriculture Ministers’ joint statement following the meeting in Stuttgart here.

Related: Critical fertilizer shipments for Eastern Canada stranded by sanctions against Russia

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