Pact to lift farm exports to China
Consumers in China will taste Canadian blueberries and cherries for the first time as a result of an agricultural trade mission to the country, and Canada will get almost C$700 million ($654.67 million) in export agreements that range from the fruit and greater access for beef to timothy hay.
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz led a delegation of more than 70. They included representatives from 30 associations and companies, provincial ministers of agriculture from British Columbia and Manitoba, along with officials from Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“I think the tone was very positive. We met with highlevel officials including Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu, who was very gracious. I believe we developed some personal relationships that will be very beneficial for Canadian agriculture in the future,” Ritz said in an interview with China Daily about the mission that concluded on June 20.
China is Canada’s secondbiggest agriculture export market after the United States. In 2013, total agriculture and seafood exports to China were valued at about C$5.6 billion, a sharp increase from C$1.6 billion in 2008.
Ritz said that key accomplishments from the trade mission included marketaccess gains for beef, cattle, swine, timothy hay, blueberries and cherries that could be worth more than C$400 million annually; signed contracts for alfalfa hay over the next two years; and signed agreements for Canadian exports that will result in another C$280 million.
The Chinese are attracted to Canadian food and agriculture products because of “the quality of our products and the consistency of our supplies,’’ Ritz said.
“Food safety is a big concern in China as it is in the rest of the world. They like the traceability in our system particularly when it comes to beef and pork products. Plus, when we promise a certain quantity of soybeans or other commodities, we always deliver that amount,” he said.
China has a fast-growing middle class among its population of 1.3 billion, and this should bode well for future Canadian agriculture exports, according to Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta.
“As people get richer, their demand for protein increases. China can only produce so much beef and pork and it’s not enough to satisfy the demand. Canada can certainly step in and help to fill in the gaps when it comes to beef and pork,” Houlden told China Daily in an interview.
Ritz said the Chinese also are interested in Canada’s agricultural technology.
“The demand is there for both our products and our technology for increasing production. Our dairy genetics program will help China meets its growing demand,’’ he said. ``There was an agreement between the Canadian Livestock Genetics Association and their Chinese counterparts that underlines the broad level of support from top Chinese dairy companies for Canadian dairy genetics.”
To help meet China’s demand for healthy foods, Prairie Orchard Farms of Winnipeg closed a deal to help China produce omega-three livestock and poultry, including about 5.6 billion omega-three eggs a year, which will require about C$200 million worth of Canadian feed.
Ritz and Changfu also renewed cooperation between the countries in agricultural science and technology.
“Agriculture Canada’s research facilities have hosted over 300 Chinese researchers including nearly 200 doctorate students from China’s academic institutions. These folks head back to China and help to spread the word about the value of Canadian agriculture. We also have a tremendous Chinese community in Canada that helps us sell our products and services in China,” Ritz said.
As for the future of China-Canada agricultural trade, Ritz expects a lot more growth.
“Right now we provide about 5 percent of China’s agricultural imports. With their growing middle class, I think we can easily double or triple that amount. We need to get prepared for this by making sure we have the resources, land and the cattle and swine numbers to meet this demand.”
Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz (left) met with Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu during his recent trade mission to China.