B.C. set record in 2015 for agrifood exports

Provincial, federal government publish 'export-ready' catalogue of B.C. seafood and agricultural products

New catalogue showcases export-ready B.C. food products. | Nelson Bennett

Even without international trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), B.C. farmers, growers, food processors and wineries set a record in 2015, selling $3.5 billion worth of exports outside of Canada.

That represents a 20% increase over 2014, according to provincial and federal ministries of agriculture.

Despite the increasing penetration of B.C. products into places like China and South Korea, Federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said concluding international trade agreements that would remove trade barriers for B.C. products is an important part of a strategy to increase market share for Canadian goods.

“We certainly support CETA, and TPP will be debated on the floor of the House of Commons this fall,” he said Monday, September 12 at a press conference in Vancouver, where he and his provincial counterpart, Norm Letnick, officially launched a new catalogue of B.C. seafood, agricultural products and processed foods.

The catalogue features 600 “export-ready” B.C. products – from farmed Atlantic salmon and blueberries, to Okanagan wine and natural health supplements.

“The partnership between the B.C. and federal governments and B.C. food companies has resulted in a 20% growth in exports in one year,” Letnick said, “and a new record of  $3.5 billion set in 2015.

“The Export-Ready catalogue unveiled today builds on that by introducing almost 100 B.C. companies that are ready to sell to buyers worldwide.”

The U.S. remains B.C. largest export market for food products – about $2.5 billion worth in 2014.

But exports have been increasing in Asia, particularly China and South Korea, thanks to marketing by 13 international trade offices and various trade missions by both the B.C. and federal governments.

“We have trade officials dealing, around the world, full-time from my department and, of course, the Minister of Trade,” MacAulay said. “That all adds up all the time. It means that we’re able to ship more product.”

The Canadian brand is strong in Asia. Canadian products are there to be both safe and high quality.

The fastest growing markets for B.C. products is South Korea, Ukraine, China, Japan, the UK and the U.S., in that order.

The top five agrifood exports from B.C. in 2015 were:

• processed food products, $294 million;

• blueberries, $218 million;

• baked goods, $159 million;

• mushrooms, $131 million; and

• chocolate and cocoa products, $124 million.

The top five seafood exports were:

• farmed Atlantic salmon, $411 million;

• crabs, $116 million;

• shrimp and prawns, $50 million;

• hake, $44 million; and

• geoduck, $44 million.

According to BC Stats, agricultural products and seafood represented 7.2% of B.C.’s total exports in 2006. In 2015, they represented 10.6% of total exports.