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Pot-based medical pet products closer to fruition as research grows

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  • TORONTO — Canadian pets are a few steps closer to getting their paws on pot-based medical treatments in Canada as more cannabis companies research marijuana’s efficacy for companion animals.

    Canopy Growth Corp. is the latest medical marijuana company to enter the potentially lucrative pet market with its announcement this week that it will embark on a Health Canada-approved clinical trial to research the use of cannabis-based products to treat animal anxiety.

    The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Dr. Shane Renwick says there’s been a flurry of cannabis-related pet health research as Canada’s laws on recreational cannabis crystallize ahead of legalization on Oct. 17.

    The association’s national issues and animal welfare manager expects there to be more clinical trials in the pipeline going forward.

    “We hope that there will be the research required to allow safe registered products on the market in the not-too-distant future… It will offer alternatives in a lot of cases to medications we’re currently using for a variety of conditions,” Renwick added. “So it’s an exciting potential that we see.”

    Dr. Renwick said the association’s members have fielded many queries from clients asking about treating their pets ailments, such as pain, with cannabis. However, there is no legal avenue for veterinarians to prescribe pot, unlike for medical physicians, and not enough clinical evidence to support it, he added.

    The association is hopeful that Health Canada will eventually approve some cannabis-based veterinary health products that its members can prescribe for their pet clients, and each clinical trial approval brings them “one step closer” in the process, he said.

    Many cannabis companies have been positioning themselves to cash in on the drug’s potential for pets as the country prepares up to for legalization of cannabis for adult use this fall.

    Canopy on Wednesday announced it got the green light from the Veterinary Drug Directorate of Health Canada for its research into the use of cannabidiol, also known as CBD, enriched oil to treat anxiety in certain animals. The research will be conducted by Canopy Animal Health, a division of Canopy’s affiliated research arm.

    “The use of natural-occurring cannabinoids as a therapy for companion animals is a logical new forefront of medical discovery… These trial approvals mark a significant milestone on the journey of making cannabis-based drugs accepted and recommended by veterinarians,” said Marc Wayne, managing director, Canopy Health Innovations, in a statement.

    CannTrust Holdings Inc. in April entered into a letter of intent with Grey Wolf Animal Health Inc. to develop cannabis products to support the well-being of pets. B.C.-based True Leaf Medicine in 2015 established True Leaf Pet Inc. to produce hemp-based products for sale worldwide.

    True Leaf said that in its 2018 fiscal year, sales of pet products totalled $1.4 million, up 280 per cent from the previous year.

    It’s tough to quantify the size of the nascent market for cannabis products for pets.

    In 2017, sales of cannabis products marketed for pets at medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries was nearly $7 million in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, according to BDS Analytics. In Colorado, sales of pet products grew 49 per cent in 2017, versus growth across all product categories at 15 per cent, it said.

    The pet pot segment growth, however, comes from an initially low base and its hard to gauge demand, said Greg Shoenfeld, vice president of operations for BDS Analytics, based in Colorado. However, in an increasingly competitive cannabis landscape, catering to pets can be a differentiator, he said.

    “Being able to develop a presence with the pet loving consumer could be a point of strength,” Shoenfeld said.

    Renwick believes there is a “huge” demand for safe, tested cannabis-based products for pets. The CVMA has been advocating that veterinarians should have the same ability as medical physicians to prescribe them as well.

    “Our pets are living longer, generally, cancer and other illnesses can produce a good deal of pain and discomfort for animals near the end of their lives,” he said.

    “And owners today are much more cognizant of wanting to alleviate any suffering that animals might endure.”

    Armina Ligaya, The Canadian Press






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    Agriculture

    Average family to pay $400 more for groceries next year, report estimates

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  • The average Canadian family will pay about $400 more for groceries and roughly $150 more for dining out next year, an annual food price report predicts.

    Food prices will rise between 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in 2019, according to the report from researchers at the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University. That means the average family of four will spend $12,157 next year — up $411 from 2018.

    Vegetables will see the biggest price jumps — between four and six per cent for the category, according to the report.

    Meanwhile, meat and seafood prices are expected to fall, with the meat category to decline by one to three per cent and seafood costs to remain the same or fall up to two per cent.

    Since 2015, the team has predicted prices in those two categories would rise as high as six per cent each year.

    “This is a bit of a risk for us… We’ve never done that,” said Sylvain Charlebois, one of the lead researchers and a professor at Dalhousie University, referring to anticipating a decline.

    But the team is confident in its prediction.

    They believe there’s an oversupply of meat, he said, and Canadians are eating less animal protein. Instead, they’re showing more interest in alternative proteins, like quinoa and lentils.

    The plant-based protein trend is evident in recent manufacturer and restaurant moves as well.

    Meat processors Maple Leaf Foods Inc., for example, acquired two companies in this niche in recent years, Lightlife Foods and Field Roast GrainMeat Co.

    At the same time, fast food chains have started adding vegan and vegetarian options to their menus. A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. even temporarily sold out of its Beyond Meat patties shortly after adding them to its menu.

    Industry watchers have attributed the demand for plant-based protein to millennials, health-conscious baby boomers and concerns around antibiotic use in agriculture.

    A turning point for animal protein, though, was 2014 when beef prices started to rise dramatically, said Charlebois.

    Between December 2013 and December 2014 the monthly average retail price for one kilogram of ground beef rose more than 26 per cent, according to Statistics Canada data. For comparison, the price advanced about 3.5 per cent from December 2012-13. It reached a record high of $13.23 in October 2015.

    “It really spooked consumers,” said Charlebois, adding they started substituting plant-based protein into their diet.

    Butchers and grocers will likely take it easy on beef prices next year in an effort to bring people back to the red meat, he said.

    Consumers’ embrace of plant proteins will help push vegetable prices higher next year, as will the weather, according to the report.

    “Fruit and vegetables are some of the most perishable, fragile food products that are on the grocery shelf,” said Simon Somogyi, a lead researcher on the report and a University of Guelph professor.

    They’re particularly influenced by climactic events, like the El Nino expected to occur this winter, he said, which can result in warmer and drier conditions, and create shortages in the supply chain.

    As far as which vegetables may see the biggest increases, it’s difficult to know what produce item will become the next cauliflower, Charlebois said. The cruciferous vegetable saw soaring prices per head in 2016.

    Charlebois points to lettuce and tomatoes as possible candidates for big price fluctuations. Meanwhile, Somogyi said produce imported into Canada is more susceptible to weather events and the corresponding price changes.

    The report predicts more modest increases for bakery (one to three per cent), dairy (zero to two per cent), fruit (one to three per cent) and other food items, such as non-perishables, not covered by the other categories (zero to two per cent).

    Restaurant prices will rise between two and four per cent, according to the report, mainly because operators’ labour costs increased as several provinces and territories boosted their mandated minimum hourly wage recently.

    The researchers’ predictions for 2018 were fairly accurate. Fruit prices, which they estimated would rise between one to three per cent, stayed stagnant — the only category where they missed the mark.

    Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.

     

    Companies in this story: (TSX:MFI)

     

    Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press


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    Agriculture

    $1.75B in mystery money could let Ottawa to start compensating farmers soon

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government says it plans to spend $1.75 billion by March without having said what the money is for, though at least some of the cash is likely to go to farmers hurt by new trade deals.

    The government remains tight-lipped about how it will use the rest of the “non-announced” spending it allowed for in last week’s fall economic statement.

    In all, the government has made room for $9.5 billion worth of still-to-be-unveiled commitments over the next six years.

    A government source says some of that will go to dairy, egg and poultry producers, whose protected domestic markets were opened up to more foreign competition under new North American and Pacific Rim trade deals. The source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The fall statement said the government is still talking with farmers and processors about compensation for the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the recently ratified Asia-Pacific trade pact known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

    The negotiations will determine the size of the final package and how the money will be rolled out over the coming years.

    In 2016, the Liberal government dedicated $350 million to help dairy producers deal with the impacts of Canada’s trade agreement with the European Union. The amount included a five-year, $250-million fund for milk producers and a second program worth $100 million for cheese-makers.

    Looking ahead, Ottawa is also facing litigation related to Indigenous issues, including land claims, that could draw on some of the money.

    Most of the yet-to-be announced funding has been dedicated to the later years of the projection, with $2.1 billion set aside for 2021-22, $1.85 billion for 2022-23 and nearly $2.8 billion for 2023-24.

    One possible use for the cash: national pharmacare.

    The governing Liberals have put together a group of advisers to consult Canadians and to explore options for a national program. The council is due to report in 2019, when the topic of pharmacare is likely to become an issue during the federal election campaign.

    A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau argued the list of the government’s funding commitments in the fall update is comprehensive.

    But Pierre-Olivier Herbert noted some measures cannot be disclosed yet due to cabinet confidentiality or because ministers have yet to make a decision. Issues of national security, commercial sensitivity, or litigation or certain matters related to trade agreements must also be kept under wraps, he said.

    “The net fiscal impact of these confidential or sensitive measures is rolled up and presented at an aggregate level and will be detailed in due time,” Herbert wrote in an email.

    Thanks to the stronger economy, Morneau had more than $20 billion in extra fiscal room over the coming years to work with, compared to the forecasts in last February’s budget. But he chose to announce new initiatives — including billions of dollars worth of tax incentives for corporate Canada — that will use up all that space and then some, contributing to slightly larger annual deficits beginning next year.

    The document contained Ottawa’s long-awaited plan to help the country compete with the U.S. for investment dollars. It came in response to major American tax and regulatory reforms that many in the business community warn have eliminated Canada’s edge as an investment destination.

    The package includes new write-offs that are expected to lower federal revenues by about $14 billion over the next half-decade all by themselves.

    The fall update also contains no timeline to eliminate the Liberals’ shortfalls, which are now projected to be higher than $18 billion in each of the next couple of years.

    The opposition Conservatives and some economists have criticized the Liberals for not providing a date to balance the budget. There are warnings the government could face big fiscal challenges when the next economic downturn arrives.

    After the 2015 election, the Trudeau government abandoned vows to run yearly shortfalls of no more than $10 billion and to balance the books by 2019. Instead, it has focused on reducing the net debt-to-GDP ratio — a measure of how burdensome the debt is — each year.

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press



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