Greg Northey, Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Pulse Canada
AS HARVEST 2023 concludes, pulse growers across Western Canada are putting in the hours necessary to get their crop ready for export to over 140 markets around the world. While the focus on the farm is getting the crop in the bin, staff at Pulse Canada are focused on several priorities to advance the growth of the sector and drive value back through to the farm gate.
As you know, our industry has invested three decades into nurturing our relationship with India, and has worked diligently and constructively for the past 13 years with successive governments towards a free trade agreement. The Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) held much promise, providing a framework for the next 30 years of pulse trade between our nations.
In September, progress towards an EPTA was effectively halted. With diplomatic tensions between Canada and India high, there was no longer an appetite on either side to work towards closer trading ties.
This news was incredibly disappointing to our industry. There is no doubt that this recent strain, along with some aggressive pricing out of Australia, has put downward pressure on red lentil prices for Canadian growers over the last month. While it is true lentil shipments to India in September were not disrupted, grower prices have dropped since mid-September. Bottom line – this kind of uncertainty is not good for Canadian pulse growers and our overall ag economy.
As India is Canada’s largest market for lentils, Pulse Canada has taken several steps to ensure trade is impacted as little as possible:
• Pulse Canada has maintained close contact with the federal government, including the minister of agriculture and the minister of international trade, advising on how to keep pulses out of the retaliatory crosshairs. We believe diplomatic disputes should be resolved by diplomats and they should not impede the ability for countries to trade.
• Pulse Canada has been actively engaging to ensure the federal government understands the value to Canada’s pulse industry in repairing relations with India as soon as possible.
• Pulse Canada continues to send strong signals through our business-to-business relationships with organizations, companies, and customers in India to assure them that the Canadian pulse industry is 100 per cent committed to its pulse partnership with India.
Thanks to the work of growers and the trade, for over 20 years Canada has been the largest supplier of pulses to India, and we know everyone is prepared to do the work that will ensure this remains true for the next 20 years as well.
Our efforts to rebuild and strengthen this crucial trade partnership are a top priority. We are working diligently to resolve trade issues, improve market access, and demonstrate our commitment to the Indian market. Furthermore, we continue working to diversify the market for Canadian lentils, taking steps to enhance the reputation of Canadian pulses, reinforcing our commitment to quality and sustainability in new high-value markets around the world.
While Pulse Canada has been working to remove market barriers for the value chain, growers have had to navigate new criteria for applying lambda-cyhalothrin. After a re-evaluation decision from the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), the latest label for lambda-cyhalothrin indicates that crops treated with lambda- cyhalothrin cannot be used as livestock feed in Canada. As any crop entering the grain handling system is eligible for use as livestock feed, this poses a risk of becoming an off-label use. To provide growers with the tools needed to navigate this landscape, Pulse Canada teamed up with Cereals Canada and the Canola Council of Canada to promote the Keep it Clean program. In addition to digital and print communications, a webinar was held in advance of harvest to update growers and agronomists on the latest tips and tools to protect the marketability of Canada’s canola, cereal, and pulse crops. As exports ramp up, ensuring our crops meet the requirements and needs of key customers worldwide remains a top priority.
Earlier this summer, the federal government brought into force an 18-month pilot program to re-introduce extended interswitching for Western Canadian shippers. Pulse Canada played a key role in advocating for this policy and ensuring it made its way through the legislative process. Expanding access to competitive rail services means Canadian shippers will have the option to achieve efficiencies, reduce costs, and enhance connectivity through market competition. This improvement is vital for grain farmers and businesses of all sizes, enabling them to deliver their products and services more effectively to Canadian and international customers.
The temporary nature of extended interswitching has raised concerns among pulse crop producers. The uncertainty surrounding its future inhibits long-term planning and investment, which are crucial for the growth and stability of the industry. Pulse Canada’s advocacy for making extended interswitching permanent aligns with its commitment to fostering a competitive and efficient transportation network that benefits all stakeholders.
Of course, to maintain Canada’s reputation as a reliable shipper of grain, the entire supply chain must be firing on all cylinders. The strike that plagued western ports this July was a prime example of how vulnerable the system can be. It is estimated that for each day the ports were closed, it would take an additional week to clear the backlog. While it is positive that an agreement was reached, attention must now be focused on the outstanding agreements with workers at ports and railway lines across Canada. Pulse Canada continues to advocate in Ottawa for the government to take a more proactive stance on facilitating agreements long before the notion of a strike becomes a reality. Our message is that Canada’s economy is far too important to be held hostage by a single component of the value chain.
Pulse growers can expect updates on these and other issues as we enter 2024. If you have any questions on any of the initiatives we undertake on your behalf, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at email@example.com.