Every year in the second week of January, we get the first peek of the year into what the industry, farmers and government are focused on in Saskatoon.
This was a great week at Crop Production Show and CropSphere, as Kelvin and I covered the two events on opposite ends of a very cold city — the trade show at Prairieland Park, and the farm group annual general meetings and speaker-filled conference downtown at TCU Place.
We’ll have plenty more coverage to come, but to start, here’s a list of five takeaways that Kelvin and I observed:
India’s tariffs on pulse imports are hitting home. The 50 and 30 percent tariffs on peas, lentils and chickpeas going to India are a major concern as growers attempt to sell their 2017 crop, with serious unanswered questions for 2018. Should I reduce pulse acres? When will India lift the tariffs? A frequent anecdote we heard was “I cannot even get a bid.”
Farmers are struggling to find a companion in the crop rotation for canola. The battle between agronomics and economics continues to stretch the minds of growers. With pulses, wheat, oats and soybeans facing excess supply challenges, the market isn’t giving any clear signals on what to grow. Unfortunately, canola acres could be both Plan A and Plan B.
Many farm groups are undergoing shake-ups. On the same day as the SaskFlax AGM, the Flax Council of Canada announced its shutting its doors due to reduced funding. Arguably the meeting of most contentions this week was SaskWheat’s AGM, where a motion to suggest the organization join Cereals Canada passed for the second time in three years. With a new board and chairperson, we will see if the group’s absence from the national cereal crop body remains.
A changing demographic for future demand. Pollster Daryl Bricker, a keynote speaker at CropSphere, spoke about rapidly declining birth rates around the world and how it could mean the global population will not grow as large as projected. However, there are opportunities, including marketing to an older population as average lifespan increases. Bricker said there will be 78,000 people over the age of 100 in Canada by 2050. That is equal to the population of Victoria, BC. This is an opportunity for agriculture.
Farmers remain positive. Maybe most noticeable was how, despite these challenges with India and weak commodity prices, we found the atmosphere at the trade show and conference quite upbeat. Farmers are true optimists.
Feel free to add your own observations and take-homes from Saskatoon in the comments below!