emerging blog

International Spice Conference

Spices have driven exploration, trade, and globalism for millennia.  So it is a great honour to go to Kerala India to speak at the International Spice Conference. I’ll be addressing a pressing issue for global movement of food:  the need for Codex reform. 

Facilitated by Geemon Korah, my fellow panelists are Ramesh Bhat, a food safety expert, and Milan Shah, a leading spice trader and member of Gafta. Together we hope to explain some of the realities of getting timely and proper MRLs in place and to talk about the Codex Reform coalition which has been formed to urge the changes that are needed in Codex functioning.  In particular, significant back logs and lack of groupings for smaller crops, as well as ongoing resource issues have slowed the system and impeded trade.  Without a globally harmonised system, the beautiful spices that make our meals a joy and provide valuable health benefits, will find movement of products difficult.

 Learn more here.

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Keeping Agriculture in the Climate Change Discussion

As I look back on 2016, it seems fair to state it was a tumultuous year. We saw Brexit, Trump, Duterte, economic slowdown in China, global unrest, and so much more. Alberta (my home province) was no exception. In 2015, the 40 year reign of our conservative party ended and was replaced with the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Alberta. It wasn’t really until 2016 that we saw the NDP government begin to develop and implement their new policy and legislation. This, combined with a new liberal federal government in Canada has led to an unprecedented political landscape in Alberta. Recently, our new government has implemented a carbon levy. For context, Alberta is known in Canada as oil country, this industry accounting for almost 20% of Alberta’s GDP1. And as such, we have higher greenhouse gas emissions than the average province, the highest to be exact2. As of Monday this week, a carbon levy is now being charged on all fuels that emit greenhouse gas emissions when combusted at a rate of $20/tonne in 2017 and $30/tonne in 20183. The rate is based on the amount of carbon pollution released by the fuel when it's combusted, not on the mass of fuel itself. It is important to note that the Canadian federal government is implementing a minimum nationwide price starting at $10 per tonne in 2018 and increasing to $50 per tonne by 2022. So this carbon levy would impact Alberta whether or not the NDP government implemented it, albeit at a less aggressive rate.

While much of the focus of this new bill has been on how it will impact our primary industry, oil and gas, it also impacts numerous other sectors, in particular, agriculture. The agriculture industry represents 8% of GHG emissions in Alberta4. This is a substantial portion that should be mitigated, but done so in a way that does not crush this important and very present industry, particularly with food security becoming a greater issue globally. An example of how important agriculture is in Alberta is Alberta beef. Alberta is known as the heart of the Canadian beef and cattle industry. Currently, 40% of all cows in Canada reside in Alberta, 70% of the feedlot capacity resides in Alberta and it contains 70% of the processing capacity in Canada5. About half of provincial agricultural emissions are primarily from the cattle sector and the other half from the cropping sector. This means both livestock and crops are going to be heavily impacted by this new levy. Understanding that this new levy would significantly influence many of our farmers, the provincial government has exempted farm fuel from the carbon levy, but, other costs such as fertilizer, crop protection products, etc., will still be subject to it. For businesses like Agrium, a company that develops, produces, markets and sells agricultural products and related chemical products, and is the third largest employer in Alberta, this represents a significant cost6. Additionally, some primary producers have shown concern that they will not be able to pass down the cost and will have to absorb it into their already tight margins. It is important to note that GHG emissions are a present issue in Alberta that must be addressed, but doing so in a way that continues to encourage economic development and protects some form of industry is important. This is why it is imperative to have continued engagement with the agriculture industry by the government going forward. It is too soon to tell the full impact the new levy will have on our farmers but I hope that with continued interaction between government and farmers we will be able to reduce our environmental footprint while promoting new and innovative ideas that will maintain this vital industry.

Our current situation in Alberta is a microcosm for trends we are seeing globally.  At COP21 in Paris, nearly 80 percent of the countries said they would use agricultural practices to curb climate change, and more than 90 percent said they would use those practices in addition to changes in forestry and land use linked to farming7. Agriculture backs many countries' economies and this sector is increasingly under threat from weather extremes, in particular drought and floods. In other words, as was the motto used by the FAO for World Food Day this year: “the climate is changing, food and agriculture must too”. Because farming practices can produce large amount of emissions, this industry has a significant yet unrealized potential to mitigate climate change. Whether this happens through farm practices, such as soil carbon sequestration through cover cropping, or by knowledge sharing between countries and within countries, agriculture needs to be a part of the climate change discussions. In our efforts to protect our environment, we want to ensure we are not crushing this important sector which is key to addressing food security issues, combating poverty, and ensuring good nutrition globally.

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Another Year Oat-ver…

Another year is about to end, and with that some interesting projects will end as well. You might already know that in November, Emerging ag assisted the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA) in a Trade Mission to Mexico to help promote oats in the country. We could not be more pleased with the main outcomes of this mission:

  • 19 media attendants at 2 tasting events 
  • 2,000 oats samples distributed at World’s Diabetes Day event
  • 4 meetings with processors and importers
  • 1 Briefing on Mexican market
  • 7 mission participants from POGA

While we hibernate this holiday season, this is also a good time to think of new ways to continue promoting Canadian oats in Mexico. Maybe a cooking workshop with nutritionists? A recipe cookbook? We will also relaunch some of the activities that have proved success like a Recipe contest and new recipe photographs. 

If you wish to share a healthy oats recipe, send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Don’t forget to take a nice photo of your creation. 

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Feast on Pulses January 18

The upcoming holidays may make you think about New Year’s indulgences and so what a great way to start the New Year off right to feast on Pulses too in 2017. Chickpeas, beans, lentils, and peas are great food. My favorite recipe is the Punjabi Dal Makhani.

They are so good for people and for the planet that they have their own special day, Global Pulse Day, to be celebrated all around the world on January 18th! That’s because pulses have a low use of water and a small carbon footprint.

Pulses are core to the food baskets of people in most places around the world. And of course, we keep finding out that traditional foods are good foods. Some are even dubbing pulses a “super food”. They are low in fat, contain important minerals and vitamins, are great for your health and help in weight management.

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High Level Dinner Highlights

You know what they say about first impressions …well I was certainly impressed! This was my first CFS and High Level Dinner and I found both to be amazing experiences. 

The 2016 edition of the High Level Dinner held on October 18th at the Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria saw 190 attendees from businesses, governments, NGOs, and academia gather to discuss, debate and collaborate on what “Delivering the SDGs through Innovation” means. 

The interactive format of the event allowed many ideas, thoughts and perspectives to be shared amongst the group. Some of the main conclusions were in order to achieve the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals innovation is a cornerstone and it is imperative that significant investments are made in technologies and infrastructure. These investments can then foster the sharing of knowledge empowerment and innovation advancements globally. Click the following link to view the full High Level Dinner report

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Celebrate Global Pulse Day – January 18, 2017

On January 18, 2017, the world will celebrate pulses…again! Formerly known as Pulse Feast, Global Pulse Day will be celebrated every year to promote the nutritional and environmental benefits of pulses. 

Celebrate with us by joining our Thunderclap to promote the benefits of pulses for people and the planet on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. Sign up here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/50361-global-pulse-day?locale=en 

Eat pulses that day and tell the world about it! You can register your lunch, dinner, party with pulses with us so they are part of the celebrations on January 18! Events will take place globally and be shared through social media. Learn more, and register your event here: http://pulses.org/global-pulse-day  

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Trade Mission to Mexico: You oat-ta love this!

I did not ask to be Mexican, I was just lucky to be born in this beautiful country. My luck doubled when I joined Emerging, which allowed me to be part of many interesting projects, including one to promote oats in Mexico with the Prairie Oat Growers Association (POGA). I like food in general, but I love oats more. 

Since 2013 we have been helping POGA with a campaign to promote this cereal in Mexico and to better understand the market opportunities for Canadian oat producers in Mexico. This past November we took a small delegation for a Trade Mission to Mexico City and Guadalajara to meet with relevant players in the country, as well as to host 2 media events and be part of the World’s Diabetes Day awareness event in Mexico City. 

Attended by 2,000 Mexicans, on November 13th the Mexican Diabetes Federation and the Mexican Ministry of Health organised a public event in Mexico City to raise awareness on this disease that is affecting more than 6 million people and is one of the main causes of death in the country. That was a sunny Sunday when Mexicans did many fun activities such as dancing Zumba and watching Lucha Libre wrestlers (if you want to see these funny developments visit this link). Since oats are a suitable food for people living with diabetes, POGA was granted with a booth to distribute recipe cards and fact sheets to promote oats and their nutritional properties. POGA partnered with the largest oat company in the world, Grupo Vida, who contributed with free oats samples to hand out during the event. 

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How to hold a Global Pulse Day Event on January 18th, 2017 #GlobalPulseDay #LovePulses

Register your event: http://pulses.org/register-global-pulse-day 

If you love beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, January 18, 2017 is going to become your favorite cooking day. It will be the second ever Global Pulse Day, a global event to celebrate pulses and continue the momentum of the 2016 International Year of Pulses. Encourage people around the world to eat pulses on January 18th. Raise awareness on the multiple benefits of consuming pulses for people and the planet. 

The first Global Pulse Day took place on January 6, 2016 as “Pulse Feast”, with 141 events spanning 36 countries, reaching 21 million people. 

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CFS43: PSM Side-events work to achieve World Food Security, and the SDGs

The 43rd plenary session of the UN Committee of World Food Security took place October 17 to 21, 2016 to discuss the issues and solutions on global food security and nutrition. This year’s session saw 56 side-events. The Private Sector Mechanism hosted 4 and a book launch, all discussing various issues and topics to advance the private sector’s engagement in reducing food insecurity, and achieving the sustainable development goals. These side-events included: 

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The role of standards to facilitate trade of agricultural commodities for food security and nutrition

A successful side event organized at the margins of the Committee on Commodity Problems

How often do we think about all the regulations that surround our food? Probably never. And yet, before we can enjoy any meal, a lot of standards have been playing their role in the background to make sure our food is safe for consumption. As the world population is growing fast, so are the technologies in food safety, improved standards and trade flows enabling the agriculture industry to keep up with the growing demand. This pace is necessary to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and especially Goal 2.

Market access issues are some of the most important obstacles to achieving these goals and standards setting bodies like Codex Alimentarius are challenged to deliver at the same pace as the world demands. The Codex Alimentarius, managed jointly by the FAO and the WHO, plays a critical role as the most important international standard setting body in the area of food safety, quality and trade fairness. Thus, enabling trade in agricultural products to benefit producers, importers and consumers. 

With this perspective in mind, I helped organize a timely side-event on “The role of standards to facilitate trade of agricultural commodities for food security and nutrition” that was organized in the margins the Committee on Commodity Problems since a large portion of commodity problems has to do with market access issues.

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