CANADA is traditionally regarded as Australia's arch rival on the pulse export front, especially in terms of lentils.
However, a representative from Alberta Pulse Growers, speaking at last month's Australian Pulse Conference, said the two nations had more to gain from working together, in particular in the research and development (R&D) space, than competing against each other.
Nevin Rosaasen, Alberta Pulse Growers' policy specialist, said yellow peas, Canada's largest pulse exporter, were not widely grown in Australia, while Canada generally exported its lentils into different markets to Australia, with Canada's focus often on the Middle East, while Australia looks to the subcontinent due to its freight advantage there.
Mr Rosaasen said there was scope for greater R&D collaboration, nominating a range of mutually beneficial work.
This include plant protection, pest management and predictive services and environmental monitoring.
"There are a lot of areas where sharing resources makes sense," he said.
Mr Rosaasen praised Australia's R&D model, singling out the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which spends government funds and grower levies on growers' behalf as a good way of getting value for public research dollars.
"There are things that private sector will just not step up to do in terms of R&D, and that's where we really need public investment," Mr Rosaasen said.
In terms of private investment into breeding Mr Rosaasen said Australia's system of end point royalties (EPRs) provided a good incentive for companies to put money into breeding new varieties.
"An EPR is a good way to capture that upfront investment into breeding."
He said currently Canada was locked in debate regarding future R&D models
"We're looking at the role of public funding into research and development and what kind of privatisation we want."
"There is some resistance to levies among growers, so I think we need to enhance education about the benefits of R&D."
Canada has also been hard hit by the loss of the Indian pulse market due to the imposition of tariffs by the Indian government.
He said most of the yellow peas that normally went to India had been sent to China, albeit at lower prices than normal.
Lentil exports were not as difficult to manage in the wake of the Indian tariffs as many Canadian lentils head to the Middle East and Turkey anyway while in terms of chickpeas Canada exports most of its product across the border to the US.
The massive scale of the Canadian pulse sector is highlighted by the export figures.
Mr Rosaasen said Canada has exported more than 4 million tonnes of yellow peas alone, in 2016-17, and regularly does more than 3m tonnes, while lentil exports are often over 2m tonnes.
In context, Australia's biggest year ever for lentil production came in at 620,000 tonnes while the highest ever chickpea harvest was 2.2m tonnes.