Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc. has pledged $35-million to help fund the creation of a new food security institute with the University of Saskatchewan and the provincial government, the partners said on Monday.
The institute will be dedicated to research around making agriculture and food systems more efficient and underscores the conviction that feeding the world’s growing population will put ever-increasing strain on a shrinking base of arable lands.
“One of the great challenges for the world, over the next ten years and beyond, is going to be to keep pace with food production, food demand needs,” said Potash Corp. president Bill Doyle, whose company is the world’s largest fertilizer maker and top producer of the crop nutrient potash.
“It used to be there were years and years and years of food surpluses in the world, and farmers used to think about how to get rid of their surplus crops, and right now we are in the opposite arena and in fact there’s actually shortages that look to be out there,” Mr. Doyle said.
The world got a sense of the delicate food balance over the summer, when crop prices soared on the back of a U.S. drought. In 2008 prices for grains and oil seeds hit their highest level in 30 years as a result of droughts in grain producing nations and record high oil prices that affected the costs of production and transport.
Global food security is becoming among the leading concerns as populations grow and become wealthier and develop richer diets.
Saskatchewan is home to more than 40 per cent of Canada’s agricultural land, exporting more than half of the world’s canola meal and one third of canola oil. It is the world’s top exporter of lentils, dried peas and flax.
The Global Institute for Food Security will have initial funding of $50-million, including some $15-million from the province of Saskatchewan over the next seven years.
The institute will be based at the University of Saskatchewan, in Saskatoon and already a world leader in agriculture and food-systems research. Some 345 commercial crop varieties have been developed at the university, whose innovations include rust-resistant wheat developed by transferring genes from wild grasses.
“The institute will build on Saskatchewan’s existing strength in crop production systems through new investments in technological, economic, nutritional and environmental improvements to the food supply system at home and around the world,” the partners said.
They said the institute would take a strategic approach to the food supply system, breeding for higher yield, improved nutrition and better processing traits.