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Governments of India & Canada in talks over canola oil labelling issue
Wednesday, 17 December, 2014, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Canadian government has commenced talks with the Indian government to allow the import of canola oil under the same name. Bruce Jowett, vice-president, market development, Canola Council, was in India recently to hold talks with officials of the government of India on the issues related to the branding and labelling of canola oil.

The government-level talks were already on between the two sides to resolve the issue that arose primarily out of an advisory by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that mandated that labels include the mention of imported rapeseed low-erucic acid oil.

Currently, both the governments are talking to resolve the issue, with frequent visits by officials of the Canadian trade and agriculture ministries. “The Canadian government officials were in talks with their Indian counterparts to help them understand the challenges on how we label canola oil coming into India,” said Jowett.

However, canola oil itself contains less than two per cent of erucic acid. “This oil comes from the canola crop, cultivated in various parts of Canada,” said Jowett, adding that Japan has been importing canola oil under the brand name Canola name for the last 30 years. Jowett said, “America is the top importer, followed by Mexico. China is a fast-growing market for canola oil.”

“The world over, the oil is imported under the same brand name, and people are more familiar with the health benefits attached with the it. We would try to convince the Indian government that canola is different from the oil extracted from the conventional rapeseed,” he added.

“Canada exports it to over 50 countries under the name of Canola. And also at the International Commodity Exchange, it is traded as Canola,” said Jowett.

According to the Canola Council, of roughly 60,000 tonnes of canola oil that were imported into India in 2013, nearly 1,700 tonnes were directly shipped from Canada, and the remainder came from other countries, primarily the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (52,000 tonnes). Canada typically supplies about 90 per cent of the canola seed to the UAE.

In 2013, Canada supplied a majority of canola oil to India (1,700 tonnes directly, plus about 47,000 tonnes indirectly [via the UAE]), totalling nearly 49,000 tonnes, according to Oil World data. The remainder of the canola oil coming into India was from other countries.

Canada grows canola on 20 million acres of land, and 90 per cent of the canola oil and seeds is exported.

To the United States, a total of 1.8 million tonnes is exported. This includes 1.4 million tonnes oil and 4,00,000 tonnes of seeds.

To Japan, a total of 9,00,000 tonnes of seeds were exported last year, while China is currently importing 2.4 million tonnes (oil and seeds).

The Canadian government has taken special initiatives to promote the oil in newer markets, as it intends to increase the contribution of canola trade to the economy from the current $19.3 billion.

Canada’s export of canola oil to the United States was worth $3.5 billion in the crop year that ended in July 2014, while shipments to Japan were worth $1.2 billion.

Meanwhile, Bombay High Court heard a petition filed by Dalmia Continental Pvt Ltd, challenging the rejection of imported canola oil at Mumbai’s seaport by FSSAI.

In its September 2014 order, it said, “FSSAI’s action was arbitrary, as the apex food regulator, which had rejected the consignment in January, cleared the same in April. There was another rejection in June.”

“The court ordered FSSAI to clear the consignments in the interim, while a final order in the case is awaited. An appeal against the order was filed by FSSAI in the Supreme Court as well,” the court added.
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