Keeping Export Markets Open by Keeping it Clean - PulsePoint
April 16, 2019
Maintaining Canada’s reputation as a high quality, safe food source depends a lot on producers
by Megan Madden
While India may be the largest producer of pulses globally, Canada is the largest exporter. More than 85 per cent of Canadian pulses are exported to key markets in over 120 countries such as India, the United States, China, and Turkey. The profitability of both the pulse
industry and its producers relies on access to these markets.
“Canadian exports are valued internationally as a high quality, safe, nutritious food source,” says Mac Ross, Manager, Market Access and Trade Policy with Pulse Canada. “Maintaining this success and reputation depends a lot on our producers.”
Ross says that consumer acceptance goes beyond regulatory and scientific requirements these days, as the agricultural industry as a whole, but particularly the export value chain, must also meet evolving consumer expectations and acceptances. Glyphosate is a primary example of consumer demand driving export changes.
As of October 2018, India is now testing imported pulses for glyphosate residue, and Pakistan is already testing lentils for the same. Sherrilyn Phelps, Agronomy Manager with Saskatchewan Pulse Growers explains that testing is to ensure pesticide residues are below the levels acceptable, which are the maximum residue levels (MRLs) set by each country.
MRLs are the highest level of pesticide residue that could be found on a food product when a pesticide is used according to product label directions. Regulatory authorities such as Health Canada are responsible for setting MRLs for their respective countries. MRLs are not a safety limit but rather are used to ensure that pesticides have been used properly and for import clearance purposes. In fact, MRLs are typically set at a level that is hundreds of times below levels shown to have an impact on human health.
“Glyphosate is not a desiccant nor is it a tool to speed up crop maturity or dry-down.” stresses Ross. “Glyphosate is registered for pre-harvest weed control, and producers must use it in accordance to product label directions. Exceeding the labelled rate or applying at outside the labelled application timing increases the risk of surpassing recognized MRLs, and this can have serious consequences in terms of international acceptance of the crop.
Glyphosate must be applied at or below 30 per cent seed moisture on the most immature part of the field. Ross admits that there can be confusion as to this staging requirement but says Pulse Canada and Saskatchewan Pulse Growers are working on tools to assist growers in properly assessing seed moisture content in pulse crops. These tools include a lentil staging guide that is included with this magazine and can be found online under the Resources tab at saskpulse.com. Phelps explains that application prior to 30 per cent moisture can lead to increased residue in the seed and product that is above the MRLs, which can then impact the acceptance of products in international trade.
“As long as products are applied at proper timing and rates, residue levels on the seed should be below the MRL levels set in Canada. No issues should arise with importing countries as long as the MRL levels they use are similar to or above Canadian MRLs,” she explains.
Ross points out that we are seeing a growing trend of countries setting their own import tolerances as these countries continue to modernize their food safety systems. Many of Canada’s importing partners are moving away from the international standard of Codex Alimentarius, a set of international food standards set by the World Health Organization, and implementing their own national MRL lists. This means that meeting customers’ requirements is becoming an increasingly complex task.
“As of January 1, 2019, Korea has implemented a national MRL list,” Ross adds. “China has also indicated that they are in the process of developing import tolerance legislation.”
The crop production industry in Canada works hard to ensure our products have continued access to export markets. The Keep it Clean! initiative is a partnership between the Canola Council of Canada, Cereals Canada, and Pulse Canada to continuously monitor potential risks in major export markets, and to ensure that growers have the most up-to-date information on how to keep their crops market ready.
The most recent pulse MRL advisory is available on page 29 and at keepingitclean.ca and states that late-season applications of fungicides, insecticides, pre-harvest weed control products, or desiccants may result in residue levels found in the seed. Growers must take appropriate risk mitigation steps to ensure product residue remains below MRLs set by regulatory agencies.
It is important to consult the pulse MRL advisory available at keepingitclean.ca to review the specific cautions for each product.
MRL non-compliance causes more issues than may first meet the eye. Disruptions in trade, border access or closures, and reputation damage are only a few factors. Ross warns it can even affect the crop protection products available to producers as life-science companies may have less incentive to make investments into innovation if the marketplace sees complications.
How can you keep it clean?
- Do not exceed product labelled rates. If you exceed the labelled rate, you risk surpassing recognized MRLs and this can have serious consequences in terms of international acceptance of the crop.
- Use products only at the labeled timing and crop stage.
- Consult with your exporter or processor. Exporters/processors have a good sense of which markets may be sensitive to specific products, and may restrict their purchases to crops that conform with buyer specifications.
- Visit keepingitclean.ca regularly for market considerations and statuses for specific crop protection products.
In Western Canada, the crop protection products to pay attention to for 2019 include:
- diquat (Reglone®)
- glyphosate (Roundup®)
- saflufenacil (Heat®)
- glufosinate (MPower® Good Harvest®)
- flumioxazin (Valtera™)
- carfentrazone (Aim®, CleanStart®)
- benzovindiflupyr (Solatenol®, Elatus™)
- chlorpyrifos (Lorsban™ and other trade names)