The Canadian Prairie province of Saskatchewan, with a population of just over a million, plays a mega role in the Indo-Canadian trade relationship. In November, Saskatchewan’s Premier Scott Moe — equivalent to the chief minister of an Indian state — will travel to India on a weeklong visit. He will explore ways to further the relationship in the face of some major headwinds that have cropped up in recent months.
Last year, Moe’s province alone accounted for more than a third of Canada’s exports to India, at over a billion dollars. India is the third largest market for Saskatchewan’s exports, behind the US and China. While Saskatchewan is among the world’s leading producer of pulses and accounts for over 40 per cent of the world’s – and virtually all of Canada’s – lentil exports, India has emerged as its top market for this commodity in recent years.
However, exports of pulses to India plunged this year after the central government sharply hiked import tariffs on pulse crops, pushing them up to 33 per cent for lentils and 50 per cent for peas.
Privately, experts believe the Indian hurdles to import of pulses may be related to domestic oversupply following good harvests and the need to protect farmers’ margins ahead of next year’s elections. In an interview after his keynote speech at the Canada-India Business Council’s Diwali gala in Toronto, Moe struck a positive note on the scope of trade with India despite the setback in the pulses sector.
“That has caused a decline in exports, a decline that I won’t say isn’t concerning for the province of Saskatchewan, but in the broader context, we understand the situation and we also understand the longer-term trading relationship that we have with India. It’s a relationship that is so valuable and this is actually an opportunity for us to work on each other commodities and services that we have,” Moe said.
Saskatchewan is using the current situation to highlight other sectors of interest. It is also a major supplier of potash and uranium to India.
Moe noted that uranium supplies from his province to India went up 200 per cent last year, and added, “This is the time for us to focus on other products as well, and the opportunities that we have in clean uranium for example in the production of nuclear power, as India continues to build power and generation infrastructure. We have all sorts of opportunities in the fertiliser industry. I think, we also have further opportunities in some of the agricultural equipment that we produce and export already to many nations and we look forward to engaging on all of these fronts, including agri-food products.”
India is now the second largest source country for immigrants to Saskatchewan, behind only the Philippines. It is also a leading source of post-secondary international students in the province, a sector that Moe emphasised his province was keen to collaborate on, pointing to over two dozen agreements between higher education institutions in Saskatchewan and India.
Kasi Rao, President and CEO of the Canada-India Business Council, said, “The higher education agenda is a more recent phenomenon and fits the pattern of immigration patterns into Saskatchewan in the last decade. What Saskatchewan has experienced in the last 10 years, it has probably not experienced in the previous 80-100 years. So, in that context, I believe Saskatchewan has emerged as one of the key sub-national jurisdictions in the world that is responsive to India’s agenda.”
Moe’s itinerary in India includes leading a trade delegation from Saskatchewan to Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, as well as attending the annual Canada-India Business Forum in New Delhi on November 27.