Last week’s trade mission to China and Hong Kong didn’t produce blockbuster trade deal announcements, but agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said the groundwork was completed for progress.
China, already a $5 billion market for Canadian food exports, agreed in principle to new phytosanitary rules that could translate into more “stable and predictable market access for Canadian wheat, barley and soybeans into China,” Ritz said June 14 during a news conference from China.
The Chinese also agreed in principle to approve import of more genetically modified crops and to work toward international standards for accepting low-level presence of unintended GM content in imports.
However, the most immediate benefit is greater access for British Columbia cherries and Canadian blueberries.
“I’m pleased to report our success on gaining new market access for fresh cherry exports from B.C. to China,” Ritz said. “The B.C cherry industry estimates that by 2014 the sales value of fresh cherries to China will be some $10 million and then aims to double that number to $20 million over the next five years.”
He said the Chinese also agreed to complete their food safety rules for import of Canadian blueberries this year, “leading to trade for the 2014 growing season.”
He said that the agreement to allow fresh cherries on a pilot project basis is significant because the Chinese market is so large.
“The blueberry growers were also with us and they look at the template, the model for the cherry growers that should expedite fresh blueberries into this market as well,” said Ritz.
He said Canada is already one of China’s five largest suppliers of food products, and with sales of more than $750 million last year, Hong Kong is Canada’s fifth largest food export market. Ritz said the agreements signed in China will increase the value of that trade in the future.
“By opening trade and maintaining business opportunities globally, we are increasing producers’ profitability and contributing to the economic growth of our country,” he said.
“Our government looks forward to continuing to increase trade opportunities for Canadian producers with both China and Hong Kong in the years to come.”
Industry groups accompanying Ritz to China included the Canola Council of Canada, CWB, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canada Pork International and the B.C cherry and blueberry sectors.