Canadá: McCain Foods executive makes predictions for future of potato industry
McCain Foods Global Vice President for Agronomy Ghislain Pelletier shared his vision for the future of the potato industry with Island growers during the recent annual meeting of the PEI Potato Board.
While he maintains there will be a market for potatoes well into the future, Ghislain Pelletier predicts the future of the industry will bear little resemblance to the past.
The global vice-president for agronomy for McCain Foods was one of the keynote speakers at the recent annual meeting of the PEI Potato Board. Pelletier told the meeting he has spent virtually his entire life in the industry as he grew up on a farm near Grand Falls, New Brunswick.
He said the 21st century marks an expansion of the age of technology that began in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the a growth in mechanization. Pelletier noted those decades also sowed the seeds for farm consolidation while the 1980’s and 1990’s saw more specialization on farms as well as the introduction of the agronomy practices and the introduction of sustainable farming practices.
He noted potatoes are a highly productive crop that can be grown in a number of climates. They are also one of the most healthy, offering more nutrition value than crops like rice when compared on a per acre basis.
"The demand for potatoes will grow in developing countries," he predicted. "The size of the global potato consumption pie will grow but the producer’s share will change."
The McCain executive also sees China and India becoming bigger players in the industry, predicting both countries will significantly increase their productivity and quality in the next decade. He noted both countries are improving their production practices with better seed and equipment.
"New technology will continue to accelerate with trends like novel breeding," he said. "How big a role that will play will depend on how well it is accepted by both producers and consumers." Pelletier predicted "technology in the next 10 to 15 years will change significantly."
The guest speaker said society’s expectations on agriculture will increase as people want to know more about how food is produced. He told the Island industry "we have to be more proactive in communicating our successes and there needs to be more collaboration within the food industry."
When it comes to climate change, he said the best defence for the industry will be good soil health. Pelletier said there is also a need for research to ensure the varieties planted going forward are the ones best suited to the changing climate.
He also offered producers some tips on preparing for the new reality and leading the list is the need to stay informed and engaged in discussion. Pelletier added "don’t be afraid to look outside your region and your crop. You have to be involved if you want to be able to shape the future agenda."
He urged the industry to look for ways to increase productivity both economically and sustainably, adding "If we want to keep our slice of the pie we need to welcome the use of more green technology and be prepared to move ahead quickly."