Meeting the rising global need

Justin Crann
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Saskatchewan could alleviate world food shortage

Doctor Chandra Madramootoo believes Saskatchewan is at the forefront of a "renaissance of interest" in food around the world.

Dr. Chandra Madramootoo was the keynote speaker at SIPA's conference at Temple Gardens Mineral Spa Tuesday night. Madramootoo discussed Saskatchewan's role in addressing the global food and water shortage.

"People are concerned about their diets and the quality of food they eat," Madramootoo said. "I think Saskatchewan, because it was founded on the agriculture industry, has a role to play in that renaissance."

Madramootoo was in Moose Jaw to deliver a keynote address at the joint Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association (SIPA) and Irrigation Crop Diversification Corporation (ICDC) conference in Moose Jaw Tuesday.

His speech focused on Saskatchewan's role in dealing with international food and water shortages.

"Saskatchewan is in a very privileged position with all of its land and water resources, and (it has) very successful farmers who are good adopters of technology," Madramootoo told the Times-Herald prior to his speech. 

"I think, given Saskatchewan's position, (it should consider) how it can make better use of its land and water resources and technologies to help, and be a greater supplier of food to the world market."

There are many ways the province can take advantage of its position and increase its output and profits, he said.

The quickest and easiest would be to look at what Madramootoo called the "low hanging fruit": the Gardiner Dam.

"To say the Gardiner Dam is totally unexploited would be an understatement," he said. "That was a visionary dream someone had in 1949, and here we are 60 years later, and it hasn't been realized."

The route to realizing that dream is taking advantage of the flow of water to build irrigation networks, he suggested, creating more arable land to grow more crops.

The catch is finding the money for the project.

"It requires a financial investment, but I think the opportunities are there and the time is right to consider how you can do it between irrigators, the government, and the private sector," said Madramootoo.

There are other ways to enhance Saskatchewan's crops and the profits that can result from them, he added.

"I think there are opportunities in terms of the other varieties of crop that can be grown," he said. "What crops can be used, for example, for medicinal purposes. … There's a whole range (the province) could get into.

"I think that's another part of the diversification of agriculture: moving away from some of the things Saskatchewan traditionally grows, like wheat and barley, and into some of the higher-value crops," said Madramootoo.

And with the kind of "large-scale agricultural expansion" he said he envisions, other opportunities will arise.

"Don't forget technology. Irrigation technology can be developed here in terms of canal and water flow device structures … and there's going to be spin-off from that, and countries interested in buying those technologies," said Madramootoo.

"Once you put in place large-scale agricultural expansion, think of all of the trades you will need … the training opportunities … and the economic spin-off resulting from it."

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Organizations: Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association, Irrigation Crop Diversification, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw

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