Seed World

Straight Talk on Trade | September 2012

Straight Talk on Trade

Germination Magazine talks to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada about new trade opportunities and research initiatives.

1) New international markets have opened up to Canadian products—what cropping and breeding trends will develop from these new markets?
We anticipate that new markets will expand the specification requirements for our crops. New breeding trends will address these requirements in addition to agronomic research which will address the need for improved and higher yielding varieties with greater resistance to disease, pests and drought.

Some examples of new international market opportunities include:
• Forage market in China: recently received approval for alfalfa and working to gain access for timothy hay into a growing market for forages as China increases animal/dairy production.
• Pulses in China: resolved selenium restrictions on pulses going into China, opening up the opportunity to broaden applications and utilization of Canadian pulses in China.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports industry-led research to capitalize on the opportunities created when new markets open. One way we are doing this is through the Agri-Science Clusters—large research networks pulling in partners from across sectors, including industry, universities and governments. Part of what these networks do is to identify the priority research for their sectors to take advantage of market opportunities. This could involve substantiating their health benefits of crops or improving their appeal to foreign markets.

Some examples include:
Pulse Cluster led by the Pulse Crops (Canada) Association. The Pulse Science Cluster aims to augment existing research investments, to advance sustainable production and to enhance profitability of the Canadian pulse industry. One of the three research themes is genetic improvement of pulse varieties to enhance the competitiveness and profitability of Canadian pulse crops. Research will focus on plant breeding and trait development for the creation of pulse varieties with improved adaptation to a changing climate, improved disease resistance and increased yield.

Canola/Flax Agri-Science Cluster led by the Canola Council of Canada. The Cluster brings together canola research in three areas: oil nutrition, meal nutrition and crop production. The oil research will focus on the associated health benefits of canola oil. The meal research will look to enhance the energy content in meal. The production research is intended to increase acreage, yield and grower profitability to meet 2015 targets in a sustainable manner. The flax research focuses on nutrition. The industry is investing in science to continue to demonstrate the health benefits of flax aimed at supporting health claims in its target markets.

2) How will this affect commodity demand?
 We are confident that our world-renowned reputation for high-quality commodities will be enhanced which will result in increased export demand.

3) Will demand created from new markets boost research spending?
Producers and companies recognize the value of research and provide significant funding to develop new varieties and products. Farmers and industry will profit from new demand resulting from the opening up of new markets, and we expect that their research investments will change to reflect the opportunities available.

AAFC plays a role in funding, pulling together and collaborating with networks of partners, including associations, universities and industry in pooling resources and providing leadership in setting research priorities and coordinating research for their sectors. Many of these networks are doing research projects that position their sectors to take advantage of new trade opportunities.

AAFC’s collaboration with other countries on mutually beneficial research can also help to open new markets. This collaboration can include scientist and student exchanges, joint research projects and demonstration farms. For example, a joint oats breeding program between Canada and China has brought together Chinese and Canadian expertise and created awareness of the quality of Canadian oats and a potential market for Canadian oats in China.

4) What new marketing opportunities do you see developing?
We see new marketing opportunities for food-grade crops in oats and barley, malting barley varieties that meet brewing specifications, and pulses that are better suited to be milled into flour to enhance the nutritional value of food.

Many of the countries we are engaging with have less land and fewer water resources than Canada.  Products, services, acumen and technologies that help deal with such resource constraints should find a ready market. Within those countries there is a growing need for crops which are drought tolerant and salt tolerant.

The AgriMarketing Program assists a wide range of agricultural sectors to develop and implement long-term international strategies which help these sectors identify and seize new opportunities. With respect to sectors such as grains, pulses and forage, the AgriMarketing Program has provided significant support to seize opportunities in markets such as the United States, Japan, China, India, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Europe, Mexico, Columbia and South Africa. 

5) What will the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement mean to the seed industry and market access?
Negotiations with the EU towards a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are ongoing and well advanced. Both sides are committed to maintaining the rapid pace of negotiations to meet the objective of finalizing negotiations in 2012. In the negotiations, Canada is committed to an ambitious outcome on tariff liberalization, including for cereals, pulses and seeds. A future CETA would be expected to eliminate tariffs or make permanent current duty-free access into the EU for these products. Canada is also pursuing satisfactory treatment for a number of sanitary and phytosanitary issues and technical barriers to trade, including issues related to biotechnology, which will be key to ensure real and effective gains in market access.

6) What will Canada’s participation in the Trans Pacific Partnership mean for the industry and market access?
Our interest in joining the TPP negotiations is to broaden and deepen our trading relationships in the Asia-Pacific region. The nine current members of the TPP represent a market of 510 million people and a GDP of nearly $18 trillion. With Canada and Mexico, TPP market potential grows to more than 658 million people with a combined GDP of $20.5 trillion.

Joining the agreement would keep Canada on an even playing field with the United States, Australia, Chile and New Zealand in important export destinations, especially in Malaysia and Vietnam, two of the fastest-growing agri-food importers in Asia.