The Earth’s capacity to feed its growing population is limited – and unevenly distributed. An increase in cultivated land and the use of more efficient production technology are partly buffering the problem, but in many areas increasing food imports solves it. For the first time, researchers at Aalto University have been able to show a broad connection between resource scarcity, population pressure, and food imports, in a study published in Earth’s Future.

“Although this has been a topic of global discussion for a long time, previous research has not been able to demonstrate a clear connection between resource scarcity and food imports. We performed a global analysis focusing on regions where water availability restricts production, and examined them from 1961 until 2009, evaluating the extent to which the growing population pressure was met by increasing food imports,” explains postdoctoral researcher Miina Porkka.

The researchers’ work combined modelled data with FAO statistics and also took into consideration increases in production efficiency resulting from technological development. The analysis showed that in 75% of resource scarce regions, food imports began to rise as the region’s own production became insufficient.

Even less wealthy regions relied on the import strategy – but not always successfully. According to the research, the food security of about 1.4 billion people has become dependent on imports and an additional 460 million people live in areas where increased imports are not enough to compensate for the lack of local production.

Opportunities to sustainably improve food production

The big issue, says co-author Dr Joseph Guillaume, is that people may not even be aware that they have chosen dependency on imports over further investment in local production or curbing demand.

“It seems obvious to look elsewhere when local production is not sufficient, and our analysis clearly shows that is what happens. Perhaps that is the right choice, but it should not be taken for granted.”

The international food system is sensitive and price and production shocks can spread widely and undermine food security – especially in poorer countries that are dependent on imports. As a result, further investments in raising production capacity could be a viable alternative. Especially in sub-Saharan Africa and India, there are opportunities to sustainably improve food production by, for example, more efficient use of nutrients and better irrigation systems. Miina Porkka emphasises that the solutions will ultimately require more than just increasing food production.

“Keeping food demand in check is the key issue. Controlling population growth plays an essential role in this work, but it would also be important to enhance production chains by reducing food waste and meat consumption. Since one quarter of all the food produced in the world is wasted, reducing this would be really significant on a global level.”
While making the rounds at industry events this winter, I noticed one topic was sure to draw a crowd every time. It seems producers, suppliers and other industry stakeholders are eager to soak up whatever information they can on international markets and trade – and with good reason.
Premier Brad Wall is travelling to Washington D.C. next week to raise awareness of the importance of Canada-U.S. trade and the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“With a new administration in place in Washington, it is vital that we highlight the value of free trade and the risks associated with protectionism.  Saskatchewan is a trade dependent province.  We need to do everything we can to ensure our exporters have access to our most important market,” says Wall in a press release.

The visit will last from April 3 to April 6, where Wall will meet with Senators, members of the House of Representatives, and senior administration officials.

On April 5 Wall will deliver a keynote address at the Heritage Foundation, where he will also participate in a round table discussion on trade, energy and economic policy.

The United States is Saskatchewan’s largest customer, accounting for about half of the province’s total exports, shipments valued at $12.9 billion in 2016.  Last year, the value of Saskatchewan’s exports to just two states – Minnesota and Illinois – surpassed what the province exported to China.  Meanwhile, the U.S. was the source of 83 per cent of Saskatchewan imports in 2016.

Last year, the U.S. had a trade surplus with Canada, the only trade surplus it posted among its five largest customers.

In addition to promoting the importance of trade, Wall will tell the Saskatchewan story, emphasizing the province’s role as one of the world’s top producers of energy, food and fertilizer and its status as a research leader in energy, carbon capture and storage and biosciences.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) has released a report that outlines the potential for expanding trade in China: a market that accounted for $5.6 billion in Canadian agri-food and agri-food exports last year. China is Canada’s second-largest two-way trading partner (after the U.S.) and is projected to be the world’s largest agri-food importer by 2021.

The report, entitled “Chasing China - Expanding Canada’s Agri-Food Exports to China,” describes the growing opportunity in the country for Canada’s agri-food exports. Currently, agri-food exports to China are already significant – China demands one third of Canada’s canola exports and represents an important market for soybeans, pulses, wheat, barley, beef and pork.

Despite the large and growing demand for Canadian agri-food products in China, the report points out that Canadian exporters continue to face serious barriers that are hampering growth. For example, tariffs and non-tariff barriers reduce the range of products that can be exported and raise uncertainty for exporting businesses.

While overcoming the barriers will be tough for many agri-food commodities and value-added food products Chinese production can’t keep up with demand and there are opportunities to improve trade.

Tariff elimination and tariff quota expansion for wheat, barley, pulses, soybean, canola as well as sugar and sugar-containing products would provide opportunity for the Canadian industry. In some cases, Canada faces a significant trade imbalance with China, particularly in value-added prepared foods and is at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries like Australia who have signed free trade agreements.

The full report can be found here.
The European Union has voted to ratify the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) while asking the Canadian government to address important outstanding issues.

“Getting the CETA through the European Parliament is a tremendous step forward the farm and food sector that is growing through exports – it’s good news for trade and speaks to the Canadian government’s efforts so far,” said Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA). “But we need to make sure that the agreement delivers on its promises. Non-tariff barriers will prevent a large part of the agri-food sector from using the agreement if they are not resolved.”

The agreement holds huge potential for growth and has been supported by CAFTA since negotiations began eight years ago. It will eliminate EU tariffs on 94 per cent of Canada’s agri- food products, and could drive additional exports of up to $1.5 billion, including $600 million in beef, $400 million in pork, $100 million in grains and oilseeds, $100 million in sugar-containing products and a further $300 million in processed foods, fruits and vegetables.

Sticking points remain, related to EU treatment of crop input products, such as biotechnology, which need to be addressed before the agreement comes into force.

In addition, CAFTA wants the government to commit to a strong advocacy strategy and a comprehensive implementation plan for agriculture and agri-food exporters that will deliver real access for Canadian companies once the trade doors are opened.
On Oct. 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union (EU) and Canada.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) is applauding the Government of Canada for signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has submitted recommendations to a consultation on a Canadian Transportation Agency review, urging federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau to commit to meeting with western farm leaders to hear their concerns about grain transportation.
Saskatchewan hemp growers and processors have been working to meet the exporting demand for the multi-use crop as the market expands in Europe and Asia. CBC News reports. | READ MORE

Mar. 21, 2016 - Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers' (OYF) program is once again offering two $1000 scholarships to Canadian agriculture students. Applications for the 2016 awards will be accepted until June 30, 2016.

The OYF Memorial Scholarship will be awarded to one individual entering post-secondary education from high school, and one individual who has already completed at least one year of post-secondary study. Applicants must be pursuing a diploma or degree in agriculture.

The late Martin Streef, OYF alumnus, established this scholarship program to help future generations of Canadians pursue their passion for agriculture. Streef was the 1996 winner of both Ontario's and Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers and president of Streef Produce Ltd, a family-run fresh fruit and vegetable business in Woodstock, Ont.

For more information and to apply, visit Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers' program scholarship page on their website.

Mar. 7, 2016 - Canola is a uniquely Canadian success story. It's the number one revenue generating crop in Canada, contributing $19.3 billion to the Canadian economy each year and resulting in almost one-quarter of a million jobs.

Acres have grown as demand from China, the United States, Mexico and Japan have increased. Together, these four countries make up the bulk of the 90 percent of our canola crop which is exported.

Keeping the door open on the export markets that sustain the Canadian canola industry and propel its growth is no small task.

The Canola Council of Canada works with the entire canola value chain – including regulators in our key export markets – to protect Canada's reputation as the premier supplier of high-quality canola.

While technology has helped Canadian canola growers produce a sustainable crop and ever-increasing yields, it is a double-edged sword when products that are registered for use in Canada have not yet been fully accepted by the regulatory bodies in our key export markets. This is the case with quinclorac, an active ingredient that is very effective for cleaver control but does not yet have import tolerances or maximum residue limits (MRLs) established in China and other canola export markets.

Considering that China imports one-third of the canola we produce in Western Canada, this is cause for concern.
In fact, these export issues prompted the Canola Council of Canada to recommend that growers do not use quinclorac in 2016.

"Global markets are critical to the success of the canola industry," said Patti Miller, president of the Canola Council of Canada. "The entire value chain needs to work together to prevent export risk and maintain Canada's reputation as a high-quality canola supplier."

The Canola Council noted in its January advisory that there is a shared responsibility among everyone in the canola industry – from life science companies to growers, elevators, processors and exporters – to work together to ensure Canadian canola markets aren't put at risk by jumping the gun on use of products that haven't yet met food and safety requirements in major export destinations.

The Canola Council of Canada advisory summed it up, "Data from the 2015 growing season confirmed that quinclorac leaves residues that can be detected by today's testing equipment – not just in the canola seed, but also in the processed oil and meal. Therefore, the value chain believes there is a significant risk to Chinese exports if quinclorac is used on canola."

The Canola Council utilizes its 'Keep it Clean' campaign and website to help educate canola growers, processors and others involved in the industry about the issue.

"The bottom line is 'Registered for use in Canada' does not mean 'okay to use'," said Christine Headon, regulatory product manager at BASF Canada, who is intimately familiar with the quinclorac issue.

Regulatory status in export destination key
Headon noted that BASF is working to establish MRLs for quinclorac in all of the major canola export markets, regardless of the formulation. She said a lot of progress has been made but anticipates it may be 2018 before the risk of rejected shipments and damage to Canadian canola's reputation can be fully averted.

Chris Vander Kant, the BASF marketing manager for Facet L, BASF's herbicide with the active ingredient quinclorac, amplified the point. "BASF makes significant investments of time and resources to ensure substantial research and development in all products. But more than that, BASF works to be responsible stewards of the industry and the approval process for Facet L is a prime example."

Vander Kant elaborated, "While we know Facet L is a needed technology for canola growers in Western Canada, we also know that we need to work with the Canola Council, exporters and growers to ensure we can bring this new technology for canola forward without jeopardizing the marketability of Canada's canola success story on the world stage. As a result, BASF will continue to invest in the establishment of the necessary MRLs prior to launch."

BASF and the Canola Council aren't alone in sounding the alarm bells. Members of the Western Grain Elevator Association have amended their Declaration of Eligibility for Delivery Form, asking growers to identify use of quinclorac.

"It's a very serious issue," said the Canola Council's Miller. "Our export customers test shipments regularly to make sure their standards are met and the tests are becoming more and more precise." She warned, "If a shipment is turned back because of an unacceptable residue, it can mean millions and millions of dollars, not only to the exporting company, but to farm revenue."

That's why the Canola Council stresses the importance of working with the value chain to prevent market access issues. "And that's why establishing import tolerances in necessary Canadian export markets prior to launching a new product is imperative to BASF," said Vander Kant.

View more.


CALGARY, Nov. 5, 2015 /CNW/ - Alberta and Saskatchewan will have lower exports this year due to depressed oil prices but will rebound in 2016 through a partial price recovery and volume gains, according to a new global export forecast released by Export Development Canada (EDC). Manitoba will also see declines in its energy exports in 2015, but gains in other important sectors will offset that and give it a modest increase in overall exports. All three provinces will enjoy export growth in 2016.

According to the Global Export Forecast Fall 2015, Alberta's overall exports will slump 23 per cent in 2015, due to a 30 per cent drop in exports of energy, which accounts for more than three-quarters of the province's exports. Saskatchewan, which relies on energy for about 40 per cent of its exports, will also see a significant decline – 43 per cent – in that sector, but strong growth in exports of fertilizers and agri-food will greatly moderate the effects on its overall export performance. Manitoba's energy exports will be down 24 per cent this year, but as energy is a much smaller share of exports than in the other two provinces, the effect on its overall exports is much less.

"There's no question that low oil prices are having a major impact on exports from Western Canada, especially Alberta," said Peter Hall, Chief Economist at EDC. "But Saskatchewan and Manitoba are showing how provinces with a more diversified range of exports can soften the blow caused by declines in one sector."

EDC says Saskatchewan's agri-food exports, which roughly equal the value of its energy exports, are set to rise 10 per cent in 2015, while fertilizer exports will increase by 38 per cent. In Manitoba, the greatest positive contribution to its exports will come from shipments of pharmaceutical products, along with gains from manufacturers such as New Flyer Industries which is providing coach buses to several U.S. state governments. Alberta's non-energy exports are also seeing a slight increase – 1 per cent – in 2015 and will post a further 4 per cent gain in 2016.

"Manitoba and Saskatchewan are also more diversified than Alberta in the markets they sell into," said Hall. "While the United States accounts for more than 90 per cent of Alberta's exports, it's only about two-thirds of the market for the other two."

A rebound in energy exports in all three provinces next year will also help them raise their overall exports. Alberta will see a 20 per cent increase in energy exports and a 15 per cent increase in overall exports; Manitoba's energy exports will climb 15 per cent and overall exports by 6 per cent; and Saskatchewan will enjoy a 13 per cent increase in energy exports and a 5 per cent jump in overall exports.

EDC is Canada's leading provider of small business financing and insurance for companies with sales or business outside of Canada. Some of its services include the Export Guarantee Program to help exporters access more financing, Foreign Exchange Facility Guarantee to help exporters manage foreign exchange risk, and Political Risk Insurance that can cover up to 90 per cent of losses from political risks in foreign markets.

EDC's economics team includes some of Canada's leading trade experts, who share their knowledge freely with Canadian companies looking to grow their international sales and help them manage the associated market risks. Its semi-annual Global Economic Forecast addresses the latest global export conditions, including providing perspectives on leading economic trends and export strategies to help Canadian companies of all sizes maximize their export growth. The forecast also analyzes a range of risks for which exporters should be prepared.

Visit the Global Export Forecast: Fall 2015 page for the full report.



Sept. 30, 2015, Winnipeg, MB - As canola farmers across Canada hustle to wrap up their harvest, they are closely following the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in Atlanta this week. The outcome will have crucial implications on the crop they harvest in the coming years. Canola farmers rely on export markets, and a TPP agreement that gives Canadian canola nothing less than equal access to markets in the TPP region is paramount.

Last week, Rick White, CEO of the Canadian Canola Growers Association, was working with family to wrap up their canola harvest in southeastern Saskatchewan and not a moment too soon. This week, White is attending the TPP negotiations in Atlanta, Georgia, keeping a close eye on the interests of the 43,000 canola farmers in Canada whom the association represents.

Canola continues to be the single largest field crop grown on Canadian farms, generating $19.3 billion in economic activity every year. "Ninety percent of the canola grown here is exported as seed, oil or meal, so trade discussions that impact canola markets are a top priority," says White.

White believes Canada must be at the negotiating table, and is particularly concerned with ensuring Canada's canola farmers remain competitive in key Asia-Pacific markets. For example, Australia already enjoys lower Japanese tariffs on canola oil because of an existing agreement between the two countries. "Japan is one of Canada's longest-standing customers for canola, but Australia's current agreement threatens our position," says White. "The TPP is our best opportunity to fix trade imbalances such as this and to keep Canadian farmers competitive within the region over the long-term."

In 2014, Canadian canola exports to TPP members totaled $5.7 billion, accounting for over 60 percent of canola export sales. If tariffs on oil and meal were phased out across the TPP region, exports could grow by $780 million per year.

"For canola farmers, a strong TPP agreement that includes Canadian canola is critical," says White. Anything less will result in lost market opportunities for the canola we harvest in future years."


Canadian Western Red Winter (CWRW) wheat and Canadian Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat have traditionally been prized by international customers for their protein content, gluten strength and bright white flour colour. But last year’s Canadian wheat crop saw significant downgrades in number one and two classes for a variety of reasons, including hail damage, excess moisture and disease. But the number one cause of poor grain quality in 2014 was mildew, and international customers noticed.

Mildew is a fungal condition that develops in unthreshed grains in excessively damp weather, and the result is a greying seed coat that, after processing, darkens the colour of the flour. Asian markets, which account for a vast portion of Canada’s export wheat sales, prize bright white flour.

According to Dave Hatcher, program manager for analytical services and Asian end products at the Canadian Grain Commission (CGC), mildew tends to grow on the brushes of wheat and the top portion of the kernel, and then works its way into the kernel itself. “When you are milling wheat, unless you go with very high quality flour, the whole milling process involves scraping the bran away from the endosperm,” he explains.

“As you do this commercially, there are certain yields you require to be economically viable. Once you clear 70 per cent you significantly increase the bran, and with that you bring in the mildew, which causes a discoloration,” he says. “So this impacts the miller because in order to avoid discoloration, they have to mill to a lower extraction which affects the bottom line.”

It’s a question of aesthetics, not safety (darkened flour carries no health risk) but in international cuisine, the way food looks is often as important as how it tastes.

At the Winnipeg-based Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi), a team of researchers is devoted to evaluating Canadian grain quality and assessing potential avenues of improvement. Cigi has its own test kitchens where flour colour is assessed along with other factors that impact the functionality and consistency of flour in a range of bread products.

“Flour colour is important to customers because it can significantly impact the colour of end-products,” explains Yvonne Supeene, head of baking technology for Cigi. “This is especially true of noodles and steam buns, but it can also impact the internal crumb colour of pan breads, making it less appealing by imparting a duller and grey appearance. For noodles and steam buns, flour colour is the primary and first specification required by manufacturers.”

According to Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi’s director of science and innovation, and Lisa Nemeth, technical specialist for winter wheat, colour is very important in bread production, particularly for customers in Asia. “But not as important as protein content and quality – in other words, gluten strength – and water absorption. The extraction rate of the flour can also significantly impact the flour colour and therefore the crumb colour.”

Cigi says CWRW wheat is highly regarded for having a very bright white flour colour, making it desirable for the production of noodles and steamed buns. But currently the quantity of CWRW available is limited due to production challenges from 2014-15.

Research-based solutions
According to JoAnne Buth, chief executive officer at Cigi, the institute conducts an assessment of the quality of wheat grown in Western Canada every year shortly after harvest. “Cigi conducts a thorough analysis of wheat, flour, semolina and end-product quality, including baking, Asian noodle, steamed bun and pasta evaluations, as applicable, by obtaining representative commercial composites of relevant wheat classes and grades,” Buth says.

Based on the results, Cigi’s technical staff develops recommendations for millers and end-product processors to assist them in mitigating the effects of any downgrading.

Buth says Cigi’s analysis of the 2014 wheat crop showed a moderate decrease in flour brightness that resulted in slight decreases in the internal crumb colour of pan bread and Asian noodles. “The same trend was also evident for semolina colour and the resulting pasta colour,” she says.

“Overall, our results showed that although mildew resulted in the downgrading of wheat in 2014, the effects were manageable and colour was within acceptable limits for the various end-products.”

CGC is the federal authority for quality, with both Western and Eastern Grain Standards Committees meeting twice a year, and as such is continuously engaged in studies of grading standards.

“CGC is always re-evaluating the current grain standards in all of our grading factors to ensure they reflect the intrinsic value of the grain,” Hatcher says.

Currently, CGC is engaged in a project analyzing a large number of samples that were downgraded for mildew damage.

Because mildew damage is a subjective grading factor, meaning there are no percentage limits set for each grade, the “degree of soundness” is used to visually assess the overall damage of samples under consideration.

“We have multiple samples in each category, and we’re milling them to a constant extraction so we can assess the flour colours relative to each other. We’re making the flours up to a constant extraction rate,” Hatcher says.

“We’re also working with our mycologist and he’s come up with a new way of quantifying, by molecular biology, the nature of the mildew fungi itself, the two different species involved, and whether there’s a species effect,” he says.

In addition, CGC is engaged in a project evaluating potential mycotoxins produced by mildew.

“I want to stress that we’re constantly re-evaluating all grading factors to make sure that the science supports them,” Hatcher says. “This year we have to look at the mildew because it’s such a dominant factor and had a big impact. We’re trying to do due diligence so that producers and buyers are getting fair value.”

Hatcher says CGC is beginning its second year of this study, but more work is necessary.

“The environment plays such a dominant role that it is wise to ensure you have at least two to three years of data before you make changes to any system that could have significant economic impact for growers or buyers,” he says.

July 21, 2015 - The world's increasing population, the corresponding growing demand for food, and climate variability will have profound impacts on the productive capacity of both oceans and agricultural lands. The knowledge of the genomic make-up, function and interaction of plants, livestock, fish and other species, has been rising, but its application to agricultural and aquatic productivity and food safety has been largely untapped until today.

The federal government and the Chairs of Genome Canada and Western Grains Research Foundation announced a $93-million investment in 11 new genomics research projects that address challenges and opportunities for Canadian agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture.

The projects selected for funding under Genome Canada's 2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition Genomics and Feeding the Future – each valued at between $5 million to $10 million – will be led by leading academic institutions based in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, and involve researchers from across Canada.

Canada is already a global leader in several areas of genomics as applied to agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture. The projects being announced today span an array of topics, each using genomics to achieve applied research goals including: sustaining and securing Canada's honey bees; improving disease resilience and sustainability in pork production; increasing varieties and production of lentils; and, making northern fisheries sustainable. Innovations resulting from this research are expected to drive economic benefits including exports and job creation in sectors critical to Canada's economy.

The University of Saskatchewan is receiving $8.5 million to support the Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2) team, led by Dr. Curtis Pozniak in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Sharpe of the National Research Council of Canada. The emphasis of CTAG2 is to conduct research to better understand the wheat genome and to apply this research to develop genetic markers and predictive genetic tests to improve selection efficiency in Canadian wheat breeding programs.

In addition to CTAG2, the University of Saskatchewan is receiving $15.5 million to help two more research teams that will develop vaccines against infectious diseases of cattle and develop lentil varieties that will excel under Canadian growing conditions. The University is also a co-lead on an Alberta-based $9.8 million project developing new tools to fight disease in pigs and improve Canada's pork industry.

Total investment in the 11 projects is $93 million, including $30.8 million in federal funding through Genome Canada, $5 million in support for three of the projects from the Western Grains Research Foundation, and $57.2 million from project co-funding partners, including provincial governments, private sector partners, non-profit organizations and others.

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