Federal funding pledged for crop market development work

(Photo courtesy Canola Council of Canada)

Canadian crop commodity groups getting federal AgriMarketing funding plan to put the money to work over five years — not just in salesmanship, but in developing their crops’ story for potential customers.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made two five-year funding announcements during the CropSphere 2015 conference Tuesday and Wednesday in Saskatoon: over $3.3 million for Pulse Canada and partner groups, and up to $9.5 million for the Canola Council of Canada, respectively.

The $3.3 million, Pulse Canada said, will be used by over 20 organizations and companies partnering with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to “jointly fund and execute” projects in three areas: sustainability; food, health and nutrition; and market access.

The $9.5 million for the Canola Council will go to support “market entry and development activities aimed at increasing the consumption and value of canola oil and meal in domestic and global markets.” Matching industry contributions, the council said, will bring the total investment to $19 million over five years.

“Our market development program and our market access program are really critical to make sure that we’re able to extract value out of the marketplace and drive that back through the value chain,” council president Patti Miller told reporters Wednesday in Saskatoon.

“Farmers aren’t going to grow canola — it’s not going to profitable on their farm — unless customers really understand the true value of the product. So getting that information out there, making sure the borders are open and that we don’t have trade barriers, is key to our success.”

To that end, she said, the council engages with medical experts, nutritionists and celebrity chefs in various markets — “people who have profile and have built trust and confidence in that market. And we teach them about canola and once they understand what the benefits are and the qualities, they are advocates on our behalf in that market.”

The AgriMarketing funding is expected to help the council go to work on its market strategies in four major markets. “It’s time to start branching a little bit more from that (and) start to identify exactly what it is that will maintain that good movement in those four major markets,” Ritz told reporters Wednesday.

China, for one, is “starting to adapt to our food safety regime (and) starting to adapt to sound science principles when it comes to trade,” Ritz told reporters. “So it’s very important that we continue to be in that market place in a very fulsome way.”

Personal contact with those markets continues to be “very important,” he added. “As bumps come up in our trade routes, as they always do, it’s so important to have that first-name basis.”

Miller said the council has also analyzed a “second wave” of key markets, looking at issues such as health, people’s education levels, customers’ abilities to pay and regulatory environments.

“So countries like South Korea, where we’ve also just signed a trade agreement, are going to be in that second wave,” she said, “and there are quite a few others on the list that we’re starting to work on.”

“Sustainability story”

The multiple-stakeholder group stemmed from farmers’ concerns “that they don’t want to pay multiple organizations to focus on the same issues,” Pulse Canada CEO Gordon Bacon said in a separate release Wednesday.

“To the credit of everyone at the table, the focus has been on the efficient delivery of effective outcomes.”

The $3.5 million going to the stakeholder groups includes $1.3 million to develop “new tools” for the Canadian grain, oilseed and pulse industries to measure the sustainability performance of Canadian agriculture. That information, the federal government said, can be used to “demonstrate compliance with food industry assurance systems.”

The sustainability initiative, Pulse Canada said, takes in the Canadian Canola Growers Association, Grain Farmers of Ontario, Prairie Oat Growers Association, Manitoba Pulse Growers Association, CropLife Canada, Canadian Fertilizer Institute, Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers, General Mills, Cargill, Syngenta, Farmers Edge, AgriTrend, Ducks Unlimited Canada and Pulse Canada.

Those groups, Pulse Canada said, “are working to develop market-driven, science-based, metrics that will improve the understanding and marketability of Canadian agriculture’s sustainability story.”

Another $870,261 will go to increase demand for Canadian pulses by marketing pulse crops on the basis of nutritional value, health benefits and sustainability.

That initiative, Pulse Canada said, is driven by “partnerships between the pulse industry and food companies from around the world” and each activity involved has “a commercial focus with direct links to commercial partners.”

Such partnerships, Pulse Canada said, “not only shorten the commercialization timeline, but also promote innovative thinking on development of food products that deliver improved nutrition and better health outcomes.”

The remaining $897,311 will go to engage key Canadian stakeholders in support of “elimination of trade barriers that limit growth opportunities in both established and emerging markets.”

That group, Pulse Canada said, also includes Croplife Canada, the Alberta Wheat Commission, Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Canadian Horticultural Council, the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association.

The federal government on Tuesday also pledged $270,000 for Pulse Canada from the federal AgriInnovation Program for the pulse sector to transfer “knowledge and expertise to the food processing and ingredients sector” for pulse-containing food products marketed with nutrition and health claims.

That funding, the government said, “will benefit pulse growers by increasing the use and demand for pulses in new and reformulated food products.”

“Regardless of the crop you grow or market, the end goal is the same,” Pulse Canada chairman Nick Sekulic said Wednesday. “It’s about maximizing profitability by driving costs down and driving value up. With so many common challenges and opportunities across this industry, it only makes sense that everyone pools their resources to get the job done efficiently and effectively.”

— AGCanada.com Network, with files from Lisa Guenther at CropSphere in Saskatoon.


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