Business leaders believe protein supercluster will ‘turbo-charge’ agriculture investment

Click to play video: 'Protein Industries Canada taking shape'
Protein Industries Canada taking shape
WATCH ABOVE: Now that roughly $150 million in federal funding is in place Protein Industries Canada aims to become a world leader in plant based proteins, bringing thousands of jobs to the Prairies – Feb 22, 2018

Protein Industries Canada (PIC) is beginning to take shape after receiving funding through the federal government’s Innovation Supercluster initiative.

This supercluster is a collaboration between the federal government and 120 private partners, primarily from the Prairies. Ottawa will contribute approximately $150 million to PIC over the next decade, coupled with private investment to the tune of $400 million.

Key partners in PIC include AGT Food and Ingredients, Dow Agro Sciences, Ag-West Bio Inc. and Conexus Credit Union. Partners on the research side include the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Government reveals who is getting $950M in ‘supercluster’ funding

Other industry leaders, like the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, are also taking part. Pulse growers executive director Carl Potts says this collaboration can mean major growth for the agriculture industry.

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“We need to diversify, and we need to create new uses and new opportunities. I think that’s what the super cluster will help us do, super-charge or turbo-charge the development of new markets, new demand,” Potts said.

New markets can include pet food in addition to human food, according to Potts.

WATCH: Impact in Saskatchewan of federal supercluster investment

PIC aims to bring a large chunk of the $13 billion global plant-based protein market to the Prairies. Through this collaboration, business leaders believe they will have greater bargaining power to open new markets in Asia and Europe.

“Consumers want to have better food products, better health, better nutrition, more environmental sustainability; and including plant-based proteins produced here in Saskatchewan can go a long way towards that,” Potts said.

Once PIC is up and running, it is expected to create 4,500 Prairie jobs over the next decade and generate $4.5 billion for Canada’s GDP.

India trade issues

India is the biggest pulse buyer in the world. Last year, 40 per cent of Canada’s pea crop was shipped to the subcontinent.

Late last year, India put a 50 per cent duty on pulses coming from Canada. That’s the highest allowable amount under World Trade Organization Rules.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other senior government officials are in India, where trade is a major topic of discussion.

Public Safety Minister and Regina-Wascana MP Ralph Goodale was in Regina for the supercluster update.

“This is a full-court press by Canada. We don’t pretend that a solution is easy, but it is something that’s very high on our agenda, and we’ll keep working on it,” Goodale said.

Goodale was not aware of the status of the talks, and noted Trudeau’s meeting with the India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is upcoming.

READ MORE: As Canada looks to Indian trade opportunities, Trudeau denies being given cold shoulder

On the business side, Potts says there is currently an oversupply of pulses on the market and India’s pulse farmers are getting a poor price for their crop.

“I think it’s going to be a matter of time before those supplies work through, but there are a few important technical elements Prime Minister Trudeau discuss with Prime Minister Modi,” Potts said.

These technical details include discussions on fumigation regulations in India Potts says Saskatchewan Pulse Growers do not believe are based on science. Additionally they want to see more predictability and transparency in future trade duties.

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The two prime ministers meet Friday.

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