(Adds details, CEO and Canadian government comments)
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, March 28 (Reuters) - Canada’s AGT Food and Ingredients Inc, one of the world’s biggest exporters of peas and lentils, expects India to extend an exemption for Canada within days from a crop fumigation policy that threatened to jeopardize C$1.1 billion ($823 million) in annual trade of the food staples, Chief Executive Murad Al-Katib said on Tuesday.
India’s current exemption for Canada from its requirement that pulse crops be fumigated in the country of origin with methyl bromide, an insect-killing gas, was due to expire on Friday.
But Al-Katib told Reuters that multiple sources in India have assured him a three- or six-month extension of the exemption for Canada was imminent, although no official announcement has been made.
A delegation from the Canadian government and pulse industry visited India earlier this month, and made a case that Canada’s cold winter weather was enough to eliminate India’s particular pest concerns.
“Minus-40 (degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit) is a very effective way to fumigate,” Al-Katib said. “It’s a very positive signal that the Indian government is recognising that they need more time to evaluate a science-based approach” to pest control.
Oliver Anderson, a spokesman for Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, said he had nothing new to report on the situation.
An exemption would allow Canada to continue shipping pulse crops to India, where they could be fumigated upon arrival.
Canada is the world’s biggest exporter of pulse crops, a popular protein source in India, the world’s largest importer.
Methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting substance, is not made in Canada, and is allowed for use only in limited situations. Canadian exporters have said that sales to India dried up in the past month due to uncertainty.
AGT shares rose 1 percent to C$30.40 in early trade in Toronto.
Earlier on Tuesday, New Delhi imposed a 10 percent import tax on wheat, seeking to curb imports at a time when Indian farmers are starting to harvest crops. ($1 = 1.3367 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Marguerita Choy)