The Alberta government and some farmers say their recent trip to India is bearing fruit despite little movement on the tariff issue between both countries.
The province announced Feb. 26 that a number of initiatives are in the works since Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier returned from India. Carlier went to the country in mid-February to discuss trade issues, as well as find other ways Alberta could expand markets there.
“India is a rapidly expanding market and it’s important that we’re there,” Carlier said during a news conference.
“They welcomed the opportunity to talk to someone from Alberta and I’m looking forward to great things.”
Expanding pork markets looks promising, he said, because both the states of Meghalaya and West Bengal expressed interest in building up that industry.
In particular, Alberta and Meghalaya renewed an agreement that calls for the reduction of trade barriers between both countries. The joint effort also calls on Meghalaya to set up a centre for excellence in piggery, where Alberta could provide it with hog genetics and other technologies.
“It’s still very early days for that industry, but there are opportunities for fresh products,” Carlier said.
“Even though 80 percent of the people there are vegetarian, 20 percent eat meat and that’s 300 million people.”
While it appears some progress has been made on expanding pork markets, pulses were on top of everyone’s mind during the trip.
Officials with the Indian and Canadian governments are currently finalizing an agreement over allowing fumigation-free pulses, but there has been no mention on what’s being done to address tariff issues. Currently, the tariff on peas is 50 percent and the tariff on chickpeas is 40 percent.
“The tariff is concerning, without a doubt,” Carlier said.
“If we can get some certainty in the future about them, that would help a lot. We’re hoping it can be resolved.”
Farmers are also hoping both sides can figure out a solution.
Rodney Volk, an Alberta Pulse Growers Commission director who farms near Burdett, Alta., went on the trip with government officials. He said when he asked people there how long the tariffs would last, they told him it could be eight months to a year.
“But you never know how the weather there might change that,” he said.
“I’d like to see the tariffs go to the wayside, but we’ll wait and see.”
He was glad the federal government got some movement on the fumigation issue.
“I think it’s a huge step forward if they finalize this,” he said.
“It’ll be a benefit to both farmers and exporters; farmers are really paying for that fumigation.”
As for other developments, Carlier said Indian officials are expected to come to Alberta in the near future for tours in the retail and technology sectors.