Canada and India need to get back to the trade talk table, says Pulse Canada

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

After years of forward momentum on a trade deal with India, it seems progress has stopped, at least for now, as there are reports the Canadian side has paused negotiations.

What exactly has transpired over the last few weeks is perhaps only known by those in the room, but the outcome — one of continued volatility and lack of market certainty — is being felt here at home.

India’s pulse market is largely what built Canada’s pulse industry, explains Greg Cherewyk, president of Pulse Canada. Current challenges aside, it’s still a multi-billion dollar export market for pulses, especially lentils. That demand is set to increase in the coming decade.

Work has been underway for over a decade to secure a trade agreement with India. Canadian pulses can face stiff tariffs upon arrival in the country — tariffs that are added and subtracted often. Peas have been a no-go to India for while now, given India’s ever-changing government rules regarding imports.

Cherewyk explains that negotiators and diplomats have been working towards an Early Progress Trade Agreement that would see at least some of this tariff variation sorted out on paper. That agreement appears to be on hold now. (More below)

“[India] is a market that is the fifth largest economy in the world. With increasing disposable income, more of that income is going to be spent on food in a market that’s largely vegetarian, that means more spent on pulses… which could lead from 23 million tons of pulse demand today to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 million tons in the future,” he says.

Securing access to that demand and fortifying that value chain is imperative to the Canadian pulse industry, and time is of the essence to get a deal done.

“Our message to our own government, to the Indian government — and we are speaking openly with both sides —  is, it’s time to come back to the table. Too much time, too much energy, too much has been put into moving forward. Let’s find a way back,” Cherewyk says.

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