Shields would like to see more food processing happening in southern Alberta

·3 min read

Despite the large amount of crops that produced in southern Alberta, some believe Alberta is not receiving the full value for them. With crops being shipped off to other places across Canada, or other countries for further refinement, it’s been stated there is a loss of value. Martin Shields, MP for Bow River, explained about agrifood processing in southern Alberta can be taken to another level in the near future.

“You have a manufacturing plant in Taber — it’s been many generations here with the sugar factory,” said Shields. “It’s a manufacturing place where they take sugar beets — we don’t export sugar beets. It’s a manu- facturing place or it’s a refinery, they refine sugar beets down to its chemi- cal components and we get sugar, and sugar is a high-value-added, value commodity that can be used in domestic markets, but also exported. Some (crops) from that particular refinery are exported to the United States. Right here in Taber, we’ve got an example of refinery of an agricultural product, and more of those in the area are being built — one to the north and one in the Lethbridge area where they’re going to refine yellow peas.”

Shields then went into more detail about what the yellow peas are used for after processing.

“What they’re looking for in yellow peas is that they are looking for the protein. The protein will be exported to countries like India that are vegetarian and so that’s another added-value crop by fractionalizing to refining it down to its chemical components and in this one, it’s the protein we’re after.”

Shields also talked about other crops he would like to see processed within the riding.

“Absolutely, canola is another one,” said Shields. “That is refining of canola, crushing of canola seed, getting to canola oil — if we can do more of that here, that’s great. There’s a lot of canola grown here, so canola is really one of those types of crops. The lentils, when you get into beans and peas, and there are more beans grown now. I think, from what I understand, there’s a possibility of wanting to do (more), in the sense of fractionalization of fava beans. It may not be done here, but fava beans are often grown here. When you talk about refineries in the sense of capacity, the potatoes that you see here is another example of refinery, but there is the capacity to do more. That’s what you want to see is more capacity to do the types of things that can be grown here. As you know, there are many things grown here, so whether it’s lentils, canola, sugar beets, we need to do more, and there’s really more interest.”

Finally, Shields touched on food safety and how we should not be as reliant on other countries.

“We’re also talking about food security as in the southern U.S. and into Mexico with the drought there. It’s going to be harder for them to grow types of vegetables and fruits that we see in our stores in the winter time,” said Shields. “That’s going to be interesting. What can we do here to lengthen the growing season for some of the things that we actually eat here?”

Ian Croft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Taber Times