Middle East attracted by Canada’s stability

Importers prefer to deal with dependable suppliers

Dullness and dependability are Canadian attributes that buyers in the Middle East find attractive, says a Dubai-based marketer.


It means there’s lots of room to sell more Canadian canola, wheat, barley and pulses in coming years.


“We’re super-stable.… We are a very even culture and we have the reputation of being so,” Nicole Rogers, principal of the Agriprocity trading service, told the CropConnect conference Feb. 19.


“We’re really good at showing ourselves to be a great place to do business because things don’t change dramatically.”


Rogers said buyers from food-deficit areas such as the Persian Gulf value nothing more highly than a de-pendable source of food. The last thing they want to see from crucial suppliers is the sort of turmoil they are seeing in Ukraine and Russia.


“There’s a lot of instability in those markets,” said Rogers, Canada’s former agriculture trade commissioner in Dubai. 


“Those are big (trading) partners for the United Arab Emirates and Gulf importers. It means opportunities for Canada for the next five, 10 years because there’s less transparency, less opportunity to do real, true business (with countries like Ukraine and Russia.)”


Rogers said the main opportunity for Canadian farmers and agricultural exporters is in unprocessed crops rather than processed goods. Countries such as Dubai are determined to do most of their own processing and can do it more effectively than buying processed food from Canada, she added.


“It’s cheaper to process in the country and bring in the raw product.”


Rogers said the demand in these markets is steady and dependable, which is good news for prairie farmers.


“It’s an industry that’s not going away,” she said. “It’s there to stay and they have long, long-term plans for expansion and development, and they are servicing the region from the UAE (United Arab Emirates).”


Rogers said the region’s businesses are important packagers and resellers, using connections and networks to get product into places most Canadian exporters would have trouble accessing directly.


“What they’re really great at doing in pulse (marketing) is just adding a very minimal value and re-exporting,” she said.


UAE processors do more intense value-adding with canola, breaking the crop out for multiple markets and users. It means they are a good market not just for top quality seed but also other qualities that can reach other buyers.


Vibrant markets exist for livestock feed, food oil and biofuel stocks, “which is great for a Canadian farmer because they take all kinds of grade, they take all sorts of product and they’ve done a lot of education in the market for us.”


The UAE and Persian Gulf nations don’t grow some of the crops that Canada exports, which Rogers said provides permanent demand. The governments there are keenly aware of their import dependency, so they encourage good relationships with food exporting nations such as Canada.


And with the population in the Middle East expected to double to about one billion people in coming decades, there is no reason to expect demand to fall, she added.