Ottawa on Tuesday decried Beijing’s move to block a major Canadian canola exporter’s sales in China, the latest escalation in an intensifying row between the two countries.

On March 1, Beijing revoked the license of Canada’s largest agricultural handler, Winnipeg-based Richardson International, to ship canola to China, which puts Canadian farmers at risk of a glut.

“The situation with the Richardson company concerns me greatly,” said Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, the daughter of a canola farmer.

“We think that there are no scientific reasons for this action.”

Canada exported more than US$3.75 billion worth of canola last year, with almost half of it, or about five million tonnes, going to China, according to industry figures.

Relations between Ottawa and Beijing have been thrown into crisis by the December arrest of Meng Wanzhou – the chief financial officer of telecoms giant Huawei – at the request of Washington.

The US alleges that Meng violated Iran sanctions and lied about it to American banks, and the case has become a major headache for Canada.

China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor in what observers see as retaliation just days after Canada arrested Meng.

Last week, Canada’s justice department formally began the extradition process, saying the evidence against Meng was strong enough to put before a judge.

Meng is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday to set a start date for the hearings.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse