Even more vast than Brazil (9,984,670 sq.km), Canada nonetheless has a mere 35 million inhabitants and only 205,700 farms - with an average surface area of 314 ha, established on some 65 million hectares. The Prairie region alone, which extends to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, has 125 000 farms raising 40% of Canada’s cattle and producing 60% of its wheat. Canada is now the seventh biggest producer of wheat in the world.In the double interview that follows, Messrs Antonio Andrade, Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture and Gerry Ritz, Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, express their views on 5 problems besetting agriculture in very many countries. Their answers, founded on pragmatism and common sense shed valuable light on the way in which, from one region to another, the economic and social imperatives of agriculture are being taken into account.
Volatility of prices and risk management : How is this affecting your supplies and market strategies?
The federal and provincial governments of Canada have drawn up a five-year holistic strategic framework with the aim of supporting agriculture and the food industry. The current framework (2013-2018), entitled Planting the Future 2 (CA 2), aims at economic growth and the long-term prosperity of the sector thanks to the innovation and development of the markets and allows us to ensure that the governments continue to share the risk associated with the extreme instability of the markets and catastrophic situations.
CA 2 includes a series of risk management programmes for companies (GRE) to help farmers manage the risks linked to the volatility of prices and production losses. Here are the five GRE federal-provincial programmes:
• Agri-protection : Protection in case of loss of production for certain produce affected by hail, drought, flood, illness or other natural catastrophe.
• Agri-stability: support when the farmer’s margin falls by a significant amount as a result of a drop in prices and an increase in the cost of the resources used.
• Agri-investment : Promotion of savings and investments in farms.
• Agri-recovery : Help for farmers so they can resume their agricultural activities after a natural catastrophe.
• Agri-risks : Support for research and development for the creation of risk management tools by the private sector.
The GRE programmes for the milk, poultry and egg industries are accompanied by a supply management system that enables a balance to be reached between national supplies and Canadian demand. The management of supplies relies on three pillars : production control, price control and the control of imports.
The milk, poultry and egg industries adopted a supply management system in the early 1970s with a view to attenuating the extreme volatility of milk, poultry and egg prices we are currently suffering. This system proved very efficient in limiting the fluctuation of the prices fixed by the producers. Supply management is a recognised risk management programme in Canada.
Water management : How do you protect this resource and what tools and regulations do you use to optimise its use in agriculture?
Ven though Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) does not have a mandate to protect water resources - this is one of the responsibilities of Environment Canada and of the provinces - the Ministry contributes to the protection of water resources in various ways. It does this mainly as part of research and development projects that affect several disciplines including the effective use of water, the management of nutrients and the preservation of the soil with a view to preventing erosion and landslides amongst other things.
AAFC researchers work on a large range of projects linked to water management. Scientists are looking for ways to reduce the loss of nutrients from agricultural land and the pollution of the Great Lakes by agriculture. The aim is to improve water quality and optimise the use of water and nutrients whilst reducing the effect of nutrients on the quality of the water and crop yields.
By way of example, the Watershed Evaluation of Beneficial Management Practices (WEBs) program aims to determine the economic effect of certain beneficial agricultural management practices and their repercussions for the quality of water in nine watershed sites across Canada. AAFC also recently launched the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements (RIA), the first spatial data bank on agro-climatic repercussions in Canada. The RIA application is an online tool (www.agr.gc.ca/air) that allows us to collect, group and integrate information on agro-climatic repercussions all over the world.
Officially, the protection and quality of surface waters in Canada is the responsibility of several organisations: for the federal government, this is Environment Canada that delegates its powers of protection to the provincial and territorial ministers of the Environment. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has drawn up guidelines on water quality with a view to respecting environmental conditions, in collaboration with regulatory bodies.
The CCME draws up and publishes guidelines on water quality (Canadian recommendations for the quality of the environment). There also exists a range of applications relating to climate and designed by various sources, including the AAFC, that can create tools such as forecasts, statistical analyses, drought monitoring, analyses of the water content of the fields in almost real-time, etc.
Position on GM crops : Do you think the cultivation of genetically modified plants (cereals and protein crops) gives an economically significant advantage to processes that have adopted it, notably in the cereal and stock-rearing industries?
It is important to mention that biotechnology applications bring environmental and economic advantages that are recognised throughout the world.
The OECD and the UN Organisation for Food and Farming see the cultivation of genetically modified plants as a means of reducing food shortages in the world. The applications of agricultural biotechnology can contribute to the viability of agriculture by increasing production and attacking environmental problems.
Exports What are the foundations of your export policy? What are your main advantages in this field? Are there any modifications you would like to see made to the rules of the WTO?
Exports : What are the foundations of your export policy, what are your main advantages in this area and are there any adjustments you would like to see concerning WTO regulations?
The growth and long-term prosperity of Canada’s agriculture depends on its capacity to compete effectively on the world market. Canada’s trade policy for agriculture is multi-faceted and includes several initiatives, including a program of multilateral and bilateral negotiations, the promotion of rules for scientific trade within the framework of multilateral forums such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and international standardisation bodies (for example the Codex Alimentarius Commission), and the bilateral mobilisation of key trade partners with a view to settling problems of access to the market relating to health and plant health measures and other technical obstacles.
Canada mainly exports the following agricultural produce : beef, pork, cereals (especially wheat and barley), oil crops, processed food and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Agricultural policies : Is the harmonisation of agricultural policies possible/desirable?
Domestic agricultural policies are drawn up in accordance with the opportunities and issues of each country, elements that depend on a wide variety of factors, including climate, historic context, culture and level of development. These policies are more effective when they are applied at national, sub-national or local level, but opportunities for collaboration may arise in international forums such as the UN Organisation for food and agriculture.