Canada and Brazil both have vast and fertile lands and are large agricultural producers. Both countries are and will continue to be suppliers of food in the coming decades, when the world population is expected to reach nine billion people.
According to the United Nations, food production will need to increase by 70% to feed the world in 2050. For this reason, options to increase agricultural sustainability, energy and water sources and reduce food shortages were discussed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February in Vancouver, Canada.
“Looking forward in the 21st century – in which food, fuel and water – will be heavily sought after, Brazil and Canada are natural partners to help lead and shape the global conversations that will seek to address those challenges.”
- Canada’s Ambassador to Brazil, Jamal Khokhar
“As leading commodity and energy exporters, we have an interest in the nexus of food and fuel issues – related to a diverse array of issues, including health, nutrition, environment, and technological improvements to reap efficiency gains in the production process,” Ambassador Khokhar noted at a conference organized by the Canadian International Council in Toronto in September 2011.
To strengthen this cooperation, Brazil and Canada created a Consultative Committee on Agriculture as a mechanism to exchange information; facilitate trade; and promote economic and commercial cooperation. Since then, technicians have met annually from the Ministries of Agriculture of both countries.
At the meeting in January 2012, in Brasilia, in addition to official meetings, delegates participated in field visits to Embrapa Cerrado and a Directed Settlement Programme.
Embrapa (the Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research) is a state-owned company, affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, devoted to pure and applied agricultural research. Embrapa scientists, for example, developed a soybean variety adapted to acidic soil that helped Brazil become a global leader in soybean exports.
To better understand the Brazilian experience, Committee participants visited the field to get to know Embrapa’s work to ensure the sustainability of the Cerrado biome alongside agricultural development. The Canadian delegation was also invited by the Brazilian government to visit sites for Technical Assistance and Rural Extension (EMATER).
Renato Triacca showed his farm – San Francisco – to the Canadians. He was one of the first settlers in the area who resettled from Paraná in the Northeast of Brazil in 1977. On his farm, Triacca uses the pioneering methods of Embrapa - such as farming without ploughing the land (“no-till farming”) - that has boosted productivity gains for corn, soybean and cotton, as well as for cattle.
These field visits inspired Embrapa staff to organize a mission to Canada, including to the Agricultural Research Center in Swift Current, and the Center of Applied Technology in Outlook, Saskatchewan. These centers are both focused on water management and irrigation and the development of sustainable agricultural practices in semi-arid environments.
The Assistant Deputy Minister of Agriculture Canada, Jamshed Merchant, head of the Canadian delegation, said the Committee’s discussions were productive. "Both countries have had the opportunity to discuss a variety of agricultural interests, food and trade. They also addressed how to promote cooperation to add value and move forward in these matters, which are so important to Brazilian and Canadian industries, "said Merchant.
The Secretary of Agribusiness and International Relations at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply, Celio Porto, explained the potential. "The world will need (food) in the coming decades to meet the demand of a population that will reach nine billion by 2050." Given the growing demand for food, "there is identification of interests between the two countries in agriculture," concluded the Secretary.
With a growing bilateral trade reaching almost CDN$ 7 billion a year, according to Agriculture Canada, in 2010, Canada exported to Brazil CDN$ 156 million, including wheat, lentils and dry pet foods. Canada imported CDN$ 997 million in Brazilian products, especially sugar, green coffee beans and orange juice.
The next meeting of the Committee is scheduled to be held in November in Toronto, during the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and includes the participation of the private sector.