Saskatchewan’s Global Role in Food Security

Food Security

You’ll soon be seeing a lot more Saskatchewan when it comes to global food security.

Over the last 5 years, “Saskatchewan” has gone from a name synonymous with the punch lines of many jokes, to the business end of many success stories.  Over its 100+ year history, one thing has remained the same: Its reputation as being the ‘bread basket’ of Canada.  This reputation however, is about to become globally recognized as a leader in food security.

Since its rise to the top of Canada’s growth provinces, Saskatchewan has recently been featured for stories other than its traditional agriculture and agri-food production. Dominating the headlines are reports of tens of billions of investment dollars going towards extraction industries as well as a growing manufacturing sector, giving less limelight to the stereotypical news usually associated with Saskatchewan. With the announcement of the new Global Institute for Food Security at the University of Saskatchewan, the province is about to become an even more prominent leader in world food security.

Food Security

The World Food Summit in 1996 defined the necessary conditions for food security as “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers food availability, access and use to be the “three pillars” in food security. It is a major issue in sub-Saharan Africa and has been one of the most dominant issues in South Asia, following independence of its nations over 60 years ago. One dominant theme appears in nations ‘on the bubble’ with food security: a reliance on imported agri-food products. Saskatchewan, through its exports, plays a huge role for these ‘at risk’ nations.

Saskatchewan’s Export Dominance

In 2011, Saskatchewan overtook Ontario to become the top agri-food exporter in Canada, making it the largest exporter of these products within the 4th largest exporter of agri-food products in the world.  Exports from the province topped $10 billion that year and trade with nations such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh topped the hundreds of millions.  Saskatchewan’s trade with India makes up between 35-40% of Canada’s total trade with the country in any given year, and the value of Saskatchewan’s overall exports to Asia have more than doubled since 2007.  As well, few truly know the scale of Saskatchewan’s dominance in the market share of some global agri-food exports. For example, Saskatchewan exports:

  • 74% of the World’s Canary Seeds
  • 30% of the World’s Rye
  • 58% of the World’s Lentils
  • 55% of the World’s Peas
  • 41% of the World’s Oats
  • 39% of the World’s Flaxseed

Lentils Legumes Food Security

Other Key Areas For Food Security

On top of Saskatchewan’s global role in feeding millions, Saskatchewan plays a large role in fertilizing the world’s fields.  With an exploding global population on pace for over 9 billion, exporting 30% of the world’s potash is a huge strategic asset.  Furthermore, billions of dollars have been spent in research biotechnology at the University of Saskatchewan and at Innovation Place – One of Canada’s largest research parks.  Finally, over 30% of the Canadian agro-biotech industry is located in the province.  These other resources, when combined with Saskatchewan’s production of staples, means it already plays a large global role in food security.

Only the Start for Saskatchewan

The announcement of the Global Institute for Food Security could really be said to be Saskatchewan’s entry as the leader of this important policy.  That announcement has kicked off a major focus on the issue in 2013. For example, on February 5, 2013 an international summit: The “Saskatchewan and Global Food Security Forum”, with the United Nations World Food Program, will take place in Saskatoon with the University of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership (STEP). On February 27, 2013 the Saskatchewan Food Summit will also take place in the city.

Saskatchewan and Global Food Security Forum

Through this initiative, bringing together renowned researchers and academics such as Dr. Roger Beachy from the United States, corporate support from the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and fostering research into crop science, production methods and agricultural policy will mean “Saskatchewan” will become a much more important word in the 21st Century.  This intellectual dialogue, combined with Saskatchewan’s dominance in food and fertilizer production, will most likely result in a ‘globalized renaissance’ taking place in what until 5 years ago was written off by other parts of Canada as ‘the middle of nowhere’.

If you haven’t moved out to Saskatchewan for a job or to invest yet, you should at least get used to hearing it a lot more.