Alberta agriculture minister Oneil Carlier is heading to India to discuss looming trade and fumigation issues with that country.
While he said changing India’s mind immediately might be tough to do, he’s confident the province and the federal government can make some progress.
“I have no doubt India realizes the importance of the Canadian pulse crop to their economy and to the feeding of their people,” Carlier told reporters Feb. 7, when he announced the travel plans.
“With the federal government, we are able to continue doing what we can to turn that corner, so that we can get some of these trade issues favourable to our own producers here somewhere down the line.”
Carlier’s trip will occur a week ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to India. Carlier will be there from Feb. 10-17, while Trudeau will be there from Feb. 17-23.
The trade issue between both countries has lasted for a few months.
Late last year, India announced a 50 per cent tariff on peas and a 30 per cent tariff on chickpeas and lentils. Prices fell as a result of the move, and the tariff on chickpeas was recently increased to 40 per cent.
On top of that, Canadian shipments had been interrupted by India’s requirement that crops be fumigated for insects.
While India plans to extend its fumigation exemption for international pulse and wheat exports to the end of June, according to Reuters, Carlier is hoping the fumigation requirement be eliminated completely.
“I’ll advocate as much as I can to the federal government to continue that work,” he said.
D’Arcy Hilgartner, chair of the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission, said farmers are looking for more transparency and predictability from India heading into the growing season.
“We need assurance to know where the market is going to be,” he said. “Through Pulse Canada, they are very engaged with the industry and India. We would like these issues to disappear, but we’re doing what we can.”
Last year, Alberta’s agriculture trade with India was worth $82 million. It’s the province’s largest market for pulses.
Carlier couldn’t say how the trade issue will affect the provincial economy, because it’s too soon to know exactly how many acres of the crop will be seeded this year.
“It’s understandable a lot of producers might not plant the same amount of acreage if the prices are not what they were,” he said. “Time will tell after seeding and how many acres we get. It’s still a good crop to rotate in.”
While deliberations with India continue, the federal government hopes to expand markets for pulses.
It recently announced that $575,000 will be available for three projects. The funds will be used to expand and find new markets for pulses in China, eastern Asia and the U.S., and to promote the crop to Canadian food service companies.
Carlier’s trip will cost $36,500. It will cover travel, meals, accommodation and hosting for him, his staff member and two department officials. A highlight of his trip, he said, will be giving a keynote address to the Pulse Conclave India conference.