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UPDATE 1-Canada unveils measures to help canola seed farmers hit by Chinese import ban

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OTTAWA, May 1 (Reuters) - The Canadian government, as expected, on Wednesday offered more financial assistance to canola seed farmers who have been hit by a Chinese ban on imports amid worsening ties between the two nations.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said that for 2019 an existing aid program would offer all farmers as much as C$1 million ($745,000), up from the current C$400,000. The interest-free portion of loans to canola farmers only will rise to C$500,000 from C$100,000.

China is blocking imports of canola seed from two companies on the grounds that it discovered pests. The ban threatens to cause major problems for farmers, given that China is Canada's biggest export market for canola.

Trade Minister Jim Carr said he would lead a trade mission to Japan and South Korea in early June in a bid to boost existing canola exports.

"Our government is taking action both at home and abroad to find lasting solutions to this situation. We will not rest until this issue is resolved for our Canadian producers, workers and their communities," he told a news conference with Bibeau.

Although the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is under increasing pressure to retaliate against China, Carr said Ottawa wanted to focus on the scientific aspects of the case. Canada dismisses the suggestion of pests in its canola exports. ($1=1.3391 Canadian dollars) (Reporting by David Ljunggren and Steve Scherer; editing by Bernadette Baum and Jonathan Oatis)