In November Syngenta celebrated its 10 year anniversary. I’ve been President for nine of those years, and have seen first hand the rapid pace of change taking place across the agricultural landscape in Canada. And change, while often feared, can be a good thing – it can bring with it opportunity.
Since 2000, the Canadian agriculture industry has seen shifting markets, new trade partners, greater farm and agri-business consolidation and impressive technological advancements. Over the next ten years, I think we’ll continue to see more consolidation of farms and agri-businesses, considerable advancements in seed genetics, traits and seed treatments, more sophisticated machinery, and greater export into developing countries.
However, the billion dollar question revolves around finding future opportunities to keep Canadian agriculture and agri-businesses competitive globally? This is a question that many Canadian agriculture leaders need to think through. With more indicators pointing towards greater globalization, we need to focus on finding the future fit for Canadian agriculture on the world stage.
I believe three components will be central to our ability to drive Canadian agriculture forward and better position ourselves to adapt to change and capture opportunity.
First, as a country we need to develop agricultural policies that truly reflect the changing dynamic of Canadian farmers. I believe that strong agriculture policy is very important as it will set the framework for our market targets and trading capacity as a country. Because we’ve slipped in terms of competitiveness (compared to the efficient production in BRIC countries), and given our current strong dollar, new policy needs to help lay the path towards profitable export opportunities.
We also need to ensure the right folks are sitting at the policy development table. When we look around that table, we should see an accurate reflection of current Canadian agriculture, with parties proportionally represented based on their respective impact on the agricultural economy.
Second, we need to invest in innovation and find ways to boost collaboration between our nation’s leading innovators. We need to foster greater collaboration and joint investment between the public and private sector to increase efficiencies, and drive research and development. This will help create new opportunities for our agricultural sector that will help us compete.
For example, I believe innovation in wheat breeding over the next eight to ten years is an area where Canadian researchers can lead the pack. We have a strong history of wheat breeding and our wheat has a global reputation for excellence – our milling wheat is considered the standard of quality in more than 70 countries. Our public and private researchers have the capability to work together and bring the potential of this crop alive; clear policy to encourage this needs to be in place. I predict that this Sleeping Beauty crop will become our next Cinderella.
Finally, changing dietary requirements and food trends in developing countries also provides us with opportunities to value-add and ship processed Canadian products according to need. The export of split, polished and packaged lentils from Saskatchewan to help fill protein requirements in developing countries is a good example of one such Canadian success. By exporting the finished product instead of the raw commodity, we can create, capture and retain this additional value and wealth in Canada. This is good for the entire Canadian agriculture value chain and good for the Canadian economy.
As a proud Canadian, I believe we should also be doing more across the value chain to leverage the positive brand image of Canada. If we get this right, I’m sure we’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reaction to Canadian-branded exports around the world.
Go Canada Go!