Window on Canada: Legal Opinion
Opportunities in the Agricultural sector in Canada
Before you think of getting into farming in Canada, it is important to have a clear idea of the role of farming in the Canadian economy and how farming is done. The information below will give you a clear idea and help you decide in the matter.
Canadian economy employs only about 4% of the work force in Canada in the agricultural sector as against about 60% in India. Whilst a small 5 acre farm can still support a farming family in India, this would not be possible in Canada. The opportunities for Indian farmers wanting to farm in Canada are limited to those willing to use their heads more than their hands.
In Canada the process of plowing, sowing and harvesting is done mostly mechanically with tractors in relative air conditioned comfort. A single combine can do work that would be done by an army of farm labourers in India. The comfort of the tractor cabin with climate control and the music system to entertain you as you plough has not replaced the long hours of toil for the Canadian farmer. The nature of work has changed and changes by the day in Canada as farm technology and research improves. The Canadian farmer must not only have the skills to decide when to plant the crop and harvest it, he must also know how to repair the and maintain the tractors on the farm.
To maintain high yields and productivity per acre one must have a lot of technical know how and support. University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, and other schools of agriculture develop research and disseminate the technical information at the farm level through organizations supported by the government. A child in the farming family in India literally grows up on the farm seeing and learning the farming techniques and farm life with a high chance of continuing the family farming tradition. In Canada it is very common for the children wishing to pursue the farming career to go to technical schools to learn the basics of farming. The television, universal education and the lure of the city draws many in the young generation to the city life of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
Does this mean that the Indian farmers cannot exploit Canadian farming opportunities? A farmer from India wishing to establish in Canada would need to learn many skills and make significant adjustments to succeed in Canada including adjustments to culture, climate and farm technology.
Adjusting to Canadian climate itself is not a small adjustment. The temperatures in Canada change from the breezy 20 to 30 degrees plus centigrade in Southern Ontario in summer to icy cold - 40 degrees in Alberta and Saskatchewan in winter. These are the prairie provinces and granaries of Canada.. Whilst the Indian farmers enjoy two or even 3 growing seasons in India, the Canadian farmer must await a short summer season from May to September for his single crop in the year.
The indoor self contained climate controlled water dripping hydroponic system of growing crops are making a slow inroads in the agricultural sector in Canada but it this is still new technology and not yet widespread in Canada. One of such systems is developed by a Canadian of Indian origin and is marketed under the name Greenfield Hyroponics based in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. Such systems will revolutionize the agriculture by making it possible to grow fodder, vegetables and other crops in controlled indoor environments to overcome the cold climate of the winter seasons.
Opportunities in the agricultural sector lies in specialized agriculture. For example, growing mushrooms, which can be done indoors and in small space with controlled temperatures. Having a chicken farm for meat or eggs is another such possibility which can be done all year round in specially designed barns that allow feed to be supplied by conveyor belts to stationary chickens and eggs rolling into another conveyor belt.
There are excellent opportunities for exporting Canadian farm technology to India. The production of milk per day in Canada can be as high as 40 to 50 liters of milk a day whilst the Indian cows produce about 10 to 15 liters. The ox sperm can be exported to India in deep freeze containers to cross breed with the Indian cows to improve the milk yields. Disease resistant seeds can be produced in Canada and exported to India for improving per acre production of crops. Canadian Agricultural Foundation was started with a view to collaborating with the University of Guelph and some farmers in Canada to provide short term training courses and practical farm training for Indian farmers but the Foundation has not yet taken off.
Effort to obtain high yields has resulted in the Canadian Agriculture becoming heavily dependent on chemicals to fertilize the crop and to keep the bugs out of the crops and fruits. The animal husbandry uses excessive amounts of hormones and artificial feed to increase the weight of the animals and to keep them disease free. The net result is that the taste of the fruits and vegetables have lost their natural flavours but are beautiful to look at. When I travel to India I rush to the fruit markets to taste the fruits in India which tastes delicious. Whilst this has become a problem in Canada it presents an opportunity for innovators to still use old and traditional methods of growing without chemicals and sell their wares in high priced health stores.
Over the last 100 years the typical farm family in Canada has lost family members to urbanization and education. The life on the farm is not appealing to many new generation Canadians who have in an industrial society many other opportunities which can be pursued. Whilst mechanization has improved the productivity, the life on the farm has not substantially changed the long hours of toil needed to make a successful farm in Canada. In an effort to support the farming community the governments in the western countries have heavily supported and subsidized the farming sector. To be in the farming sector one must know the maze of the subsidies and government support programmes which cover a range of expenses ranging from cheap loans to buy machinery to subsidies for marketing for your product.
The decrease in the farming sector in relation to the economy of the country, together with the improvement in the modes of communication, including air freighting, has resulted in a Canadian dinner table having food items from many countries. This creates opportunities for new comers to take on the challenges of innovation and hard work in the agricultural sector. An example of entrepreneurship in this area is Zinta, a Canadian company owned by a person of Indian origin who developed a flavoured yogurt drink called "Lassi" which is making good inroads in the Canadian market.
The current immigration rules have been relaxed in the new Canadian Immigration Act to make it possible for a farmer to immigrate to Canada as a self employed person. In this category the applicant is not required to undergo the process of removal of conditions which entrepreneurs are otherwise required to do. Sufficient capital and proven farm experience is required to qualify to come to Canada under the self employed category as a farmer.
[Jay Chauhan is a senior lawyer based in Richmond Hill, Ontario, near Toronto, and an Economist from The London School of Economics. He is a graduate of the Berlin University in Agricultural Economics. He received Canadian Journalists' and Writers' Club (CEJWC) award in the Internet category - Opinion - for his legal columns in South Asian Outlook e-Monthly.]