Following a trade mission to Japan and South Korea, Saskatchewan’s trade and export development minister says progress on diversification was made but more is needed to fill the gap left by the Chinese ban on Canadian canola imports.
“I think over the next year you will see more canola seed and oil sold into Japan and South Korea,” minister Jeremy Harrison said. “We think we have a huge opportunity in these markets because of the free trade agreements we have in place.”
Harrison, along with federal Minister of International Trade Diversification James Carr and Alberta Trade and Tourism Minister Tanya Fir left for Japan and South Korea last week. The trip was in part a reaction to China’s decision to ban imports of Canadian canola earlier this year.
In 2018, China was Saskatchewan’s largest export market. Trade of Saskatchewan canola seed alone was worth $1.5 billion last year. Japan and South Korea, however, are already significant importers of Saskatchewan canola. In 2018, Saskatchewan exports to Japan were worth $1.13 billion, 99 per cent of which was made up of agri-food products. Trade with South Korea was worth $117 million with key exports being canola oil, wheat, malt and oats.
“There would have to be a very, very large increase to make up for the Chinese market,” said Harrison. “It’s not a one or two market answer on this.”
Harrison mentioned Indonesia and Vietnam as trade partners with potential for growth.
“A lot of soy oil, for example, is used in both of those markets. We think there’s an opportunity to grow canola oil in those markets, but we’re going to have to focus on making the case.”
China isn’t the only country that has drawn back agricultural trade with Canada. In 2018, Saudi Arabia halted the purchase of Canadian grain as political tensions between the two countries fumed. Canada has also faced recent trade struggles with India and Italy.
Harrison cited trade offices established by other Canadian provinces as an option that could help protect and promote trade. Alberta and Ontario both operate a number of international government-run trade offices, including in Tokyo and Seoul. Currently, Saskatchewan’s only such office is in Shanghai.
“Having the ability for our province to defend our trade interests on the ground,” Harrison said. “I’m going to engage with some of our exporters over the course of the coming weeks to seek their feedback on that.”