Trade mission to Asia

ENSURING A STRONG MARKET FOR CANADIAN SOYBEANS

market opportunities continue to be strong for Canadian soybeans in Asia. To build on the relationship that has already been established there, Grain Farmers of Ontario participated in an international trade mission to Taiwan and Japan. The theme of the  program was Canada’s comprehensive research programs and our commitment to delivering high quality soybeans in the future. 

The program was sponsored by the Canadian Soybean Council (CSC) and coordinated by the Canadian International Grains Institute (Cigi). The five member delegation included: Nicole Mackellar, Program Coordinator, CSC; Hugh Dietrich, an IP soybean producer from Ontario; Barry Senft, Chief Executive Officer, Grain Farmers of Ontario; Daryl Beswitherick, Program Manager Quality Assurance Standards and Re-Inspection, Canadian Grain Commission; and Dr. Linda Malcolmson, Manager Special Crops, Oilseeds & Pulses, Cigi. The program was also supported by the Canadian Soybean Exporters Association who had their members attend the seminars, industry association meetings and visits associated with the program.

taiwan
The trade mission began in Taiwan with a casual tour of a traditional wet market and supermarket. The delegation was able to see firsthand where Taiwanese consumers are purchasing their soy food items. “Currently there is a mandatory labelling requirement in Taiwan for products containing more than five percent GMO, but this is only for packaged goods. There is no labelling requirement in the wet market which is where most of the consumers shop for their soy food products” said Malcolmson. “Taiwan is seeing a change in this though, with more and more supermarkets and convenience stores opening and with the younger generation willing to pay higher prices for non-GMO products.”

The official portion of the program began with a seminar hosted by the Canadian delegation in conjunction with the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei. The theme of the seminar was “Canada’s Soybean Industry: Committed to our Customers”, and focused on Canadian soybean production, Canada’s  environmental sustainability practices, Canadian soybean quality, Canada’s grain quality assurance, and Canada’s commitment across the soybean supply chain to ensure traceability. Over 50 participants attended the seminar, including researchers, whole sellers and soy food manufacturers.

Following the seminar, a round table meeting was held with several key representatives from the Taiwan soy food industry. The purpose of the meeting was to gain a better understanding of how Canada could increase its profile in the Taiwanese soy food markets. The meeting was also used to inform the representatives about the quality and traceability aspects of Canadian food grade soybeans. Currently, there is a lack of knowledge regarding Canadian soybeans and the different types and quality we are able to offer. Canada has an opportunity to increase market share by educating the soy food manufacturers on the advantages of using Canadian soybeans and the opportunities that are available when using identity preserved varieties.

On average, Taiwan imports 2.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) of soybeans a year. The United States was their largest provider, making up 90% of the market, until 2012 when Brazil surpassed them. This was mainly due to pricing. Of the total 2.4 MMT, approximately 240,000 metric tonnes (MT) are used for human consumption. Most of this would be predominantly GMO with about 20,000 – 30,000 being non-GMO. Canada, the US and Argentina are the main suppliers of the non-GMO soybeans.

Before leaving Taiwan, the delegation toured Brothers Farm Foods, the country’s largest soymilk base provider and second largest tofu maker. The company uses 18 MT of soybeans a day and sources them from Canada and the US. The group also toured Kuang Chuan Dairy, Taiwan’s largest fresh milk producer. The company produces flavoured milk, yogurt, soymilk, rice milk, teas, juices, coffee, puddings and jelly. Their soymilk is produced from the base provided by Brothers Farm Foods.

PHOTO: CANADIAN PRESENTERS AFTER THE SEMINAR IN TAIPEI.

japan
The second leg of the program brought the delegation to Tokyo, Japan, where they hosted a seminar at the Embassy of Canada. The seminar focused on producer organizations’ commitment to research, the utilization of research at the farm level, Canadian soybean quality, Canada’s grain quality assurance, and Canada’s commitment across the soybean supply chain to ensure traceability. With over 150 participants in attendance there was a very good turnout of representatives from across the soy food industry. A networking reception was held after the seminar where there was the opportunity to speak one on one with all of the participants.

While in Japan, the delegation met with the four largest soy food manufacturing associations in the country; including the Japan Federation of Miso Manufacturing Cooperatives, Japan Natto Manufactures Cooperative Society, Japan Tofu Association and the National Federation of Tofu Commerce and Industry Trade Association. The associations represent over 80% of the soy food manufacturing in the country and have a combined membership total of over 3,800. The meetings allowed for very open dialogue regarding the challenges each of the industries are facing and how Canada is able to help address some of their issues. The overall theme was the decrease in consumption rates due to changing consumer diets and taste preferences. Younger generations are incorporating more bread into their diet and are steering away from the “traditional” Japanese diet. Japan is also currently experiencing deflationary times and as a result consumers are very price sensitive.

“These meetings were very important for the Canadian soybean industry as it allowed us the opportunity to gain an understanding of where we need to focus our efforts to ensure we are delivering the highest quality products to our customers. Japan is the largest market for Canadian food grade soybean exports and we want to ensure this continues moving forward,” said Senft.

“The information gathered through the seminars, meetings and industry tours is very valuable and is something we can share with the entire soybean value chain,” added Malcolmson.

Although Japan and Taiwan offer two very different markets for Canadian soybeans, they both provide opportunities for growth. In Taiwan, there is the opportunity for Canada to become a leader in providing high quality food grade soybeans. In Japan, there is the opportunity to work with the associations on promotional activities to educate consumers on the quality and safety of Canadian soybeans. •

About Nicole Mackellar 5 Articles
Manager, Market Development, Grain Farmers of Ontario