It’s always interesting to read about reports which are being released in the area of agriculture.
Sometimes they bring to light some intriguing information.
At other times you are left wondering why it took a report to unveil the obvious.
In some respects it’s a combination of the above with ‘Finding the Hidden Dragon: Why Taiwan Matters to Canada’s Economic Future’.
To start with it should not come as a surprise that Taiwan is a huge potential market for agricultural products.
A person could create a list of markets simply by doing an Internet search of countries with large populations, and overlaying that with countries with high population densities based on land mass.
Where countries have both mass populations, and limited land areas, you have a market for food. That only stands to reason. Limited land means limited ability to grow your own food. If a population is massive, then it stands to reason there will be a need to import food.
Now Taiwan does produce agricultural products, flowers, and horticultural products, but they also import some $14 billion in agricultural products, based on 2012 numbers.
A recent Western Producer article noted, “Canada exported more than $210 million in agri-food products to Taiwan in 2013. Leading Canadian agricultural exports are typically meat products, animal hides, cereals and oilseeds.”
The issue is not so much determining where markets are, but how to effectively access them.
Canada is not the only country selling beef or pork, or wheat, and other exporting countries, Australia, Argentina and others, can have advantages in terms of shipping and even coast of production, which means Canada can be a step behind in marketing before knocking on the door seeking a sale.
And markets today are often about give and take.
You might swing a deal to sell product ‘A’, but it comes with an understanding you’ll increase access for their product ‘B’.
That on the surface is a great way for things to work, but in terms of food security no country wants to harm a domestic sector by creating import competition, and perhaps it shouldn’t even think about it given the world we live in.
We like the idea of free markets, and we have long lived in a world where trade has generally moved safely.
But in a world where the United States and Russia are once more posturing in opposition to one another, terrorism seems to be a growing issue, racial tensions tighten stateside, and the world watches disease events such as ebola unfold, the free flow of food could be impacted all too easily.
The need to maintain as much ability to grow one’s own food in country is as important to Canada as any other country, and that has to be remembered.
So while creating a list of markets is easy enough, balancing things and building market access is not.
Of course Canada needs to find customers since we produce almost everything for export, and that is why we need to not just identify markets, but work to build sales connections while still keeping our countries farmers doing what they do best, producing food.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.