Consumer outreach across the world

AN INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO SOYBEAN MARKET DEVELOPMENT IN JAPAN AND SOUTHEAST ASIA

it’s not every day that an Ontario farmer thinks about consumers in Asia. But, considering approximately 40 percent of Canada’s total soybean exports (1.9 million tonnes in 2008-09) head to Asia, Canadian farmers have a vested interest in maintaining a good relationship with buyers, processors and consumers in  those countries.

Fortunately, the Canadian Soybean Council (CSC) has been focused on building these relationships for the past five years. Export market development is one of the key focuses of the CSC, an organization run by a board of farmer directors from Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario. From building long-lasting relationships with processors to finding new markets, the council is concentrated on adding value to Canadian farmers’ soybean crop.

Past incoming programs have focused on relationship building and technical exchange between customers in export markets and Canada’s soybean industry.  These programs traditionally include hosting soyfood manufacturers from around the globe on a tour of the Canadian soybean handling system. Attendees are privy to a comprehensive overview of Canada’s soybean industry through seminars, farm visits, tours and technical exchanges with researchers. 

thinking outside the box
Although the CSC has traditionally shown buyers and technical personnel from soyfood manufacturers around our farms, elevators and research facilities, this past year, they decided to do something a little different.

“We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to spread the word about the quality of Canadian soybeans in our key markets,” says Michelle McMullen, Manager of CSC. “With this in mind, we decided to host soybean journalists from Japan and Southeast Asia this past year to expand the reach of our export market development initiatives.”

Although their past programs, focused on soybean buyers and technical personnel, have been very successful, they require hosting a large number of people, which can be expensive. “As the CSC participated in an outgoing market development program to Japan, Singapore and Malaysia this year, along with attending the World Soybean Research Conference in China, we had to think out of the box to make sure we used the remainder of our market development budget in the most effective way possible,” explains McMullen.  Under the new program, the CSC, in conjunction with the Canadian International Grains Institute (CIGI) was able to reach nearly 60,000 traders, wholesalers and soyfood manufacturers by simply hosting two journalists.

Attending the program, which was held in September, 2009, was Chiaki Terada from the Daily Soybean and Oilseed newspaper and Ong Tze Kian from the Food and Beverage Asia magazine.

The Daily Soybean and Oilseed, an industry newspaper based out of Tokyo, is distributed daily to 50,000 traders, wholesalers and manufacturers across Japan.   Food and Beverage Asia, a quarterly publication, reaches 7,000 food manufacturers in Southeast Asia.

exploring the advantages of canadian soybeans
As the majority of Canadian soybeans destined for Southeast Asia are for food uses, quality and food-safety are highly valued. Showcasing the safety and quality of our soybeans all along the production chain was a focus of the tour.

“The program was comprehensive,” says McMullen, “we highlighted all the steps required to supply IP soybeans to world markets from the farm to export.”

The journalists toured three farms, one each in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, explored two elevators, in Quebec and Ontario, and visited Sunrise Soya in Toronto, a soy processing plant.

Readers of the Daily Soybean and Oilseed newspaper in Japan are very interested to read about all aspects of Canada’s soybean industry. “They are not only interested in the soybean production in Canada but also the soybean food industry,” says Terada. From the information provided during the program, she was able to write about the full gamut of our industry.

Also included in the tour was an explanation of our research and regulatory system. A trip to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Harrow Research Centre focused on the new conventional varieties that are currently being bred and tested for food uses. In Manitoba, the journalists visited the Canadian Grain Commission and the  grading process of Canadian soybeans
was explained.

following up
As a direct result of this tour, Canadian soybean production and processing was featured in several different articles in the Daily Soybean and Oilseed newspaper and articles for Food and Beverage Asia are in the works.

Staff from CSC and CIGI have been in touch with both journalists since the tour to provide more information and answer questions. “We have developed strong relationships with very important Asian publications through this tour,” says McMulllen. She continues to emphasize that increasing the awareness of Canadian soybeans in current and emerging markets through a number of export market development activities is important.

“We are very pleased with outcomes of this program,” says McMullen.  “CSC will continue to support and invest in a variety of export market development activities that will increase the awareness of Canada as a producer and supplier of safe, high quality soybeans.”