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Delta farmers to benefit from $4.3M agrifoods program
The federal and provincial governments are chipping in $4.3 million to support B.C. agrifoods producers exporting to new international marketplaces, and Delta farmers stand to profit from the move.
The second phase of the Growing Forward program now includes seafood for the first time, and will provide matching funds to support industry participation at international tradeshows, promotional events, and develop marketing materials for international audiences.
Christina Burridge, executive director of the BC Seafood Alliance, knows how important it is to promote agrifood on an international level.
“To get seafood included, particularly given that seafood accounts for two-thirds of B.C.’s agrifoods exports, is actually a pretty good deal,” she said.
Burridge said the governments of most seafood-producing countries already provide marketing support to help them get into new export markets.
“So, this is just a fairly modest, but nice, redressing the balance a little bit.”
Burridge said cost-sharing programs aimed at marketing agrifoods is ultimately beneficial for both food producers and the economy.
The U.S. is still the biggest market for farmed seafood, while Japan and China remain the largest wild seafood markets in the world. Burridge said they’re hoping Canada can secure a deal with South Korea in 2014, while Canada’s recently negotiated free trade deal with the European Union opens up the door to smoked salmon exports.
Linda Delli Santi, executive director of the BC Vegetable Marketing Commission and a former greenhouse grower, also welcomed the program.
“To make more money you have to move more product. To move more product you need new markets.”
Greenhouse growers have been trying to get peppers into Japan for 20 years but have had trouble getting around Japanese food inspectors concerned about importing plant-based viruses. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been trying to help growers convince Japan the food is safe, but Delli Santi said the federal government needs to do more to convince other nations as well.
“I think in particular food items, more so than steel or lumber, there are those concerns that they’re afraid you might import something you don’t want,” she said.
The greenhouse sector in the Lower Mainland tends to export 60 or 70 per cent of its product outside of B.C. with the bulk of it headed for the U.S.
Delli Santi said brands like Windset Farms or BC Hot House are the licensed agencies looking for new markets and not the individual greenhouse growers in Delta who move their produce to those distributors.
“B.C. blueberries are the number one fruit export from B.C. and this new export program will be beneficial to our growers and enable competitive and sustainable access in the target markets in China, Japan, India, southwest Asia and the EU,” said BC Blueberry Council executive director Debbie Etsell.
According to Ministry of Agriculture’s Agricultural Land Use Inventory for Delta, berries cover 1,241 hectares, or 13 per cent. Between 2002 and 2010, blueberries accounted for the highest rate of growth of any agrifood, with export demands pushing production 253 per cent in that time.
The Growing Forward 2 program aims to build on the $2.5 billion of agrifood products B.C. exports to more than 130 countries annually by supporting B.C. producers, businesses and associations to promote their products to international buyers.
The $3-billion Growing Forward 2 program runs from 2013 to 2018, which includes $2 billion in cost-sharing on a 60/40 basis for programs delivered by provinces and territories, as well as $1 billion for federal-only strategic initiatives.