Alta. to increase international trade staff

As a way of fighting back against “tough times for Alberta,” Premier Jason Kenney plans to help the province’s farmers by aggressively boosting agricultural exports in markets around the world.

“Our agriculture sector is a powerhouse for our economy and there’s tremendous opportunity for the sector to be a big contributor to Alberta’s recovery from the pandemic and global recession,” he said, outlining how the provincial government aims to strengthen exports and investment by boosting its international agricultural presence. Offices in the United States and the European Union will each receive one new employee, adding to a global network that includes offices in Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi and Beijing.

As Alberta farmers “continue to grow more crops and get better yields at good prices, we have to ensure that global markets are there for our farmers to sell to,” Kenney said at a news conference Sept. 30 attended by provincial Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen. “And so, today, we are announcing an expansion of Alberta’s agriculture export promotion network around the world.”

Specific trade and investment officers will also join Invest Alberta’s offices in Singapore and Mexico City. The mandate of the newly created crown corporation is to boost Alberta’s economy by helping attract investment in industries ranging from agriculture and energy to technology and aviation.

“We have aggressive new growth targets as part of the Alberta recovery plan’s ag sector strategy,” Kenney said at the news conference, which was held at Lewis Farms in the Spruce Grove area west of Edmonton.

“We are targeting an eight-and-a-half percent increase per year for value-added agricultural exports and a 7.5 percent increase for the primary agricultural sector. Together, these new growth targets will increase agri-food exports up to $16.6 billion by 2023 — that’s a 43 percent increase from the 2018 level of $11.6 billon.”

Kenney called the targets bold — “these are frankly stretch targets” — but he said they were justified by what he called “incredible advances” in everything from agricultural technology and crop science to farming techniques that are sparking higher yields in Alberta.

“You know, these are very tough times for Alberta, with high unemployment, the biggest contraction in the world economy since the Depression of the 1930s, with the biggest collapse in energy prices in history, and yet, despite that, a lot of great things are happening in Alberta’s economy,” he said.

Alberta’s agri-food sector employs about 77,000 people, contributing $9.2 billion to the province’s gross domestic product.

“We believe this may be the single biggest year in the history of Alberta agriculture, with perhaps an unprecedented bumper crop across the Canadian prairies,” said Kenney, pointing to everything from lentils, peas and canola to wheat and livestock.

“It’s important that we Albertans have a sense of hope — how we are getting through this and we will come out stronger than ever on the other side, and one of the reasons we can be optimistic about Alberta’s economy is Alberta agriculture,” he said.

Contact doug.ferguson@producer.com

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