Forget promotion, focus on access for Canadian exports


Canada is an exporting nation, of that there can be no doubt. While some countries struggle to produce enough to feed its people, Canada produces more than double what it needs.

That creates a clear opportunity, and some would say responsibility, to export food and food ingredients world-wide.

Ted Bilyea, distinguished fellow with the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, says that there has been and is tremendous demand for the quality and quantity of goods Canada has to sell.

“If you’re selling a bushel of wheat to a customer in Japan, the person on the other end of that is fully knowledgeable about everything that’s good or bad about your product, they know we’ve got great stuff. And they’re smart, and they do their homework,” he says.

Promoting Canadian product isn’t going to sell more, Bilyea says, instead we should be focused on ensuring our products can actually get to the markets that want them, with certainty, year in and year out.

There is also already more demand than what Canada can currently supply for several commodities, but securing reliable access is necessary before processors will invest in expansion.

“We could scale in many different areas if we put our minds to it, but you have to be sure that you’re going to have access if you’re going to scale. And right now, the only guaranteed access that we’ve got is first the United States and NAFTA countries. Secondly, the CPTPP has helped us because now we can sort of say, well, we have pretty guaranteed access to those other members as well. But the world we’re entering now, where countries like China can be quite arbitrary about the access, it prevents us from really fully investing,” he says.

Canada’s place in the world commodity market has the opportunity to increase in the coming years, but it will be market access, not promotion that makes the most of that, Bilyea says.

Listen on to the full conversation with Ted Bilyea, recorded at the Canadian Agriculture and a Hungry World event, at Ottawa, Ont.:

Interested in the paper Bilyea references in the audio? Find that here. 

Please register to read and comment.


Register for a RealAgriculture account to manage your Shortcut menu instead of the default.