NEW DELHI, INDIA — Canadian crop farmers will see more stable and profitable markets after Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz concluded trade missions to Turkey, India and Italy to promote unfettered agricultural trade based on fair, science-based principles and announced exploratory discussions on a mutually beneficial free trade agreement with Turkey, the Canadian government said on Sept 16.

"With a growing population, tremendous market demand and a strategic economic and geographic position, Turkey is a long-standing trade partner that holds the potential for even greater returns for Canadian farmers and our economy," said Minister Ritz following his meeting with State Minister of Foreign Trade Zafer Çaglayan.

Canada and Turkey currently enjoy a strong relationship with agriculture exports from Canada worth over C$160 million in 2009, most of that in pulses, oilseeds and grains. Pulse Canada estimates that a free trade agreement that eliminates Turkey's import duties on Canadian pulses by up to 20% would strengthen the investment environment and continue to drive export growth, which has expanded by 400% since 2005.

Ritz also signed a comprehensive memorandum of understanding (MOU) to drive exchanges in science and technical information that will benefit both countries in the areas of production and processing of value added products. As a result of the meeting, there was agreement to begin technical negotiations to resolve a number of market access issues.

Ritz returned to India to pursue continued cooperation and collaboration after his last mission secured Canada's first agricultural MOU with India. Ritz secured agreement from Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to find a long term solution which would allow pulse fumigation at Indian ports, reducing uncertainty, significant delays and costs to Canadian farmers while ensuring uninterrupted supply of pulses to India. While Indian officials now review a draft technical document as the basis for this solution, the pulse crop industry will benefit from a derogation extension until March 31, 2011. Recent technical meetings, held as part of a joint Indian-Canadian working group established during Ritz's previous mission, played a key role in developing this document. Canadian pulses (including peas, lentils and chickpeas) account for almost half of all India's pulse imports and was valued at C$533 million in 2009.

In Italy, Ritz stressed the necessity of international leadership in the development of science-based trade rules, including a technical solution for low-level presence of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food and feed. He met with He Changchui, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Deputy Director General Operations and Modibo Traoré, FAO Assistant Director, as well as representatives of the CODEX Alimentarius Commission, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetics.

"As the world continues to focus more and more on nutrition, food security and sustainably, we need to make sure that farmers can continue to feed the world," said Ritz. "Farmers have always been innovative and cutting edge science, such as biotechnology, will help farmers rise to the challenge."

In addition to discussing the benefits of a future Canada-E.U. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Giancarlo Galan, Italian Minister of Agriculture, and Paolo de Castro, chair of the committee on Agriculture of the European, Ritz committed to working on shared interests in research and education on biotechnology and its role in feeding the increasing world population with safe, high quality food.

This trade mission was part of Ritz's overall agenda to make sure Canadian farmers can make their money from the marketplace and continue to drive Canada's economy. He was accompanied by Pulse Canada and the Canola Council of Canada.