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Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on April 1, 2019 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Ottawa plans to fly a team of food inspectors and industry experts to China in a bid to end the ban on canola imports amid simmering political tensions between the two countries.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she told her Chinese counterpart by letter that Canada wants to send a delegation to China that includes the head of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to verify and find a solution to the Chinese objections to the purity of the oilseed shipments.

“What China is telling us is they have found some kind of pest in the shipments so we must pursue the discussion based on science,” Ms. Bibeau told reporters in Ottawa on Monday.

China suspended the licences of two major sellers of canola, Richardson International Ltd. and Viterra Inc., and stopped all orders for a crop that accounts for one-quarter of Canadian farm sales after saying it found unacceptable levels of stems, pests and other matter in canola shipments.

The sales halt – and the detention of two Canadians – are widely seen as retribution for Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a Huawei executive wanted in the United States on fraud charges related to the company’s ties to Iran.

The agricultural community and lobby groups are calling for Canada to find a solution to the impasse, warning $2.7-billion in annual sales are at risk at a time farmers are set to begin planting this year’s crop.

The government faced criticism in the House of Commons on Monday for refusing to publicly treat the conflict as part of the diplomatic crisis rather than a trade dispute.

“This crisis is not about a product, it is about politics and it requires immediate action to resolve it,” said Rosemarie Falk, Conservative MP for Battlefords-Lloydminster. “Our farmers are paying for the Prime Minister’s failure to handle Canada’s relationship with China, but he has offered them no real assurances. This crisis is creating a lot of uncertainty, and if left unresolved, its impact will be devastating.

“Spring is here, bins across the Prairies are full of canola and seeding is right around the corner. Our farmers need to have confidence that their government is standing up for them on the world stage and they deserve answers from the Prime Minister,” Ms. Falk said.

Brian Innes, spokesman for the Canola Council of Canada, called the government’s plan to involve its own inspectors a “positive step.”

International Trade Minister Jim Carr said Canada’s food inspectors need to be assured there is a problem so it can be resolved and the imports restrictions lifted.

“We are seeking to resolve our market access problems with China at the scientific level,” Mr. Carr told reporters in Ottawa on Monday. “If there is a problem with our shipments, show us the science, so our skilled and dedicated industry leaders may rectify it.”

“The quickest way to resolution is to have the scientific evidence on the table so the representatives from the CFIA and from the Chinese authority can sit down and resolve it,” Mr. Carr said.

Gary Stanford, who grows canola on a 5,000-acre farm near Lethbridge, Alta., said the government’s scientific approach is the correct one.

“I think we have to go that way,” he said by phone. “I hate to speculate if it’s Huawei or whatever. I really don’t know. I think that’s the same for every farmer out there,” said Mr. Stanford, chairman of the Alberta Wheat Commission.

Canola is used to make cooking oil, livestock feed and biofuels. The small black seeds represent 17 per cent of all Canadian exports to China and support 250,000 jobs, according to the Canola Council of Canada.

China has said the ban on Canadian canola is because of health reasons, saying the Canadian crop contains unacceptable levels of pests, stems and weeds.

But the canola industry says China is the only country complaining about the quality of Canada’s canola, and points to a 2016 agreement between the two countries. That pact, announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, guaranteed access to China’s canola processors until 2020 by permitting certain amounts of foreign matter, known as dockage, in shipments.

Since Ms. Meng’s detention in Vancouver on Dec. 1, China has arrested former diplomat Michael Kovrig, entrepreneur Michael Spavor and others.