Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart used the backdrop of Canada’s Farm Progress Show to announce a new $1 million international market development program.
The program is designed to help businesses and organizations establish or expand their international market presence, host or attend more trade missions and expand market access for producers.
Stewart said Saskatchewan is Canada’s top exporting province. Agri-food exports are up 60 percent since 2007 and topped $10.2 billion in 2011 to edge out Ontario for top spot. In particular, canola seed ex-ports have gone up from $856 million to more than $2.1 billion.
The province exports 96 percent of Canada’s lentils, 88 percent of its peas, 87 percent of its canaryseed and 86 percent of durum, Stewart said. Farm equipment exports are also strong.
Saskatchewan will be there as people around the world increasingly look for safe, reliable food, he told those gathered for the official opening of the 35th show.
“We have a great story to tell.”
The new market development program will provide approved applicants with up to 50 percent of eligible costs, to a maximum of $100,000 each.
Eligible expenses will include travel to international trade shows and missions, bringing buyers to Saskatchewan and producing marketing material and advertising.
Farm Progress Show manager Rob O’Connor said the show could use the help to bring even more international visitors to Regina than it already does.
This year, more than 600 were expected from 55 countries. Surveys have shown that the economic impact of each international guest is $2.5 million.
“I think the return on investment is one that anybody would take,” he said.
Canadian Western Agribition also focuses on international marketing, and chief executive officer Marty Seymour said the show would likely take advantage of the new program.
Last year the show attracted more than 800 guests from 79 countries.
Seymour said the provincial government has recognized the need to connect buyers and sellers.
“We have to focus on bringing people in,” he said.
Stewart added that the Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership, which receives government funding and membership fees, does good work to bring in foreign buyers and promote the province’s industry and producers. This program will supplement that work.
“There are probably options that are seen by others in the industry as well,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to further expand markets for our agricultural products. Ag will remain a priority of our government.”