Canada needs to quit fiddling around the edges of its agri-food policies and start thinking big.
That’s the message Greg Cherewyk, Pulse Canada’s chief operating officer, brought to a recent meeting of the Commons agriculture committee. He used the occasion to call for a new focus on continuous improvement and transformational innovation in the upcoming Growing Forward 3 (GF3) agriculture policy framework.
Doing so will set Canada apart from other agriculture exporting nations, he said.
Investment in continuous improvement is crucial, he said, adding that means a new approach that doesn’t seek to simply strengthen the existing business model.
He said the Calgary Statement, issued by the federal and provincial agriculture ministers after their annual meeting this summer, is a framework to support sector strength and competitiveness and to foster transformational innovation.
“Canadians must do more than just react and adapt to change, we must create and capture the opportunities of the future,” he said.
“Access to international markets is critical for continued profitability and growth. With increasing success in addressing tariff barriers through bilateral free trade agreements, non-tariff barriers are the key obstacles to capitalizing on market opportunities.”
Transformational innovation would enable Canada to differentiate its food system by strengthening the connection between food, human health, and environmental health, while simultaneously enhancing the profitability of the ag sector and the food industry and creating new opportunities. He also noted that there’s a need for public involvement in this area, to ensure it happens.
“Investments in transformational innovation are intended to create a novel product or service, and thus are inherently more risky for all stakeholders within the agri-food value chain,” Cherewyk said.
He also said these type of goals are closely linked to the next policy framework themes of risk management, environmental sustainability, climate change, as well as value-added agriculture and agri-food processing. For example, a focus on sustainable food would be transformational innovation that addresses socially important issues and priorities of the next policy framework. In this context, sustainability includes human health, environmental health, and economic health and can give benefits well beyond the agriculture sector.
“Nutritious food can deliver health outcomes,” he said. “Nutritious food can also deliver environmental outcomes through reformulation and by keying on dietary footprints. Nutritious and sustainable food can deliver economic outcomes by recognizing the need for all players in the agri-food system to be profitable while also ensuring affordable food for consumers.”
Canada also needs to work on resolving an emerging access obstacle for agriculture caused by differences over maximum residue limits, he said.
“Neither the process nor the timing of maximum residue limit establishment is synchronized between regulators like CODEX, at the international level, the European Food Safety Authority, and regional groups like PMRA here in Canada and the EPA in the United States. Rather than seeing a strengthening of alignment at the international level, we see more national approaches with several key countries, even moving away from CODEX to establish their own national systems,” he said. China, India and at least six other countries have brought in their own MRL policies.
He also noted transportation performance will be a key ingredient in fostering growth in the export sector, and should be an important part of GF3.
“Ongoing competitiveness of Canada’s agri-food sector requires that a range of products destined for more than 150 countries around the world be moved in an efficient and predictable manner,” he said. “Customers in every market need to know that the quantity and quality of product that has been purchased will be delivered within the delivery period specified in the contract.
“Reliable transportation remains a top priority. To fully utilize market access and new trade opportunities, Canada must remain focused on continuous improvement in domestic transportation.”