A letter of intent recently signed between the Barley Council of Canada (BCC) and the China Agriculture University (CAU) could bear fruit for long-term profitability.
The letter of intent recently signed at a ceremony in Beijing, is part of an agreement to develop a joint Canada-China feed barley study.
What could be better than collaborating on a feed barley trial with the most prestigious agricultural university in China? How about three trials?
“Our plan is to run three different feed barley trials, hopefully one a year,” said BCC executive director Phil de Kemp.
The first one would use high quality Canadian feed barley in up to 25 per cent of dairy rations to see if it generates more milk production and higher protein or butter fat. Based on the results, the next two trials would incorporate Canadian barley in cattle and hog rations, evaluating its impact on animal health, weight/carcass gain and all aspects of meat quality.
A Kernel of an Idea
The seeds of this project were first sown at the BCC’s annual general meeting in February. Knowing that the federal agriculture minister was leading a trade mission to China in May or June, the council looked at what could be accomplished on the trip. And while a flight to China is great for gathering air miles, de Kemp saw another angle.
“We started asking who we could partner with to enhance Canadian export opportunities. The Alberta Barley Commission is finishing up a trial with Japan looking at beef, and the CAU expressed great interest in a similar undertaking with barley.”
Of course, the reason for going with China on this study went far beyond “we happened to be in the neighborhood.”
As de Kemp pointed out, “there’s a real shortage of protein in China right now. Since feed barley produces three leading proteins in western Canada – beef, pork and dairy – this is a chance to validate the unique attributes of Canadian feed barley and help meet the growing Chinese demand.”
With China’s feed barley imports rising to about six million tons over the last 18 months, and their disposable income moving in a similar direction, the people want more choice and availability of protein, and de Kemp wants Canada to be a part of that.
“Boosting their protein intake is beneficial to the Chinese, and what’s good for them can be very good for Canadian barley as well.”
In true Canadian fashion, this initiative isn’t just about how barley exporters can benefit, but how many others can profit in the process.
“By adding export market opportunities for feed barley, whether it’s feed varieties or malting barley varieties not selected as malt, we can increase barley acres and provide not only for our industry, but for the cattle and hog industries as well. Plus, more acres mean more security of supply, giving producers other options for crop rotation besides wheat, canola and specialty crops. They can now add barley with confidence.”
While there are still “i’s” to be dotted and “t’s” to be crossed, de Kemp views this opportunity as a big first step to greater collaboration with China and other countries.