Editorial - International trade opportunities for local business

It is sometimes difficult to get your head around the idea of a product being made in the local area and sold to someone on the other side of the world.

There is a general understanding by most, at least in Saskatchewan, that the crops they see growing in fields as they drive down our highways are exported outside of Canada.

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But, it is less thought about that products such as jars of honey, bottles of flaxseed oil, or pieces of machinery processed locally find interested markets in other countries.

Richard Choi, chief representative of the Saskatchewan Trade and Investment Office China, based in Shanghai, was in Yorkton over the weekend and he brought into focus the connection the local area has in terms of trade with China.

One of those businesses is Buckle Great Northern Beef Corp., which hosted Choi on his visit.

The Buckle farm was homesteaded in 1885, six miles south of Yorkton. Since the 1940s, they have fattened cattle for both the Canadian and US markets. In 2014 Buckle Great Northern Beef Corp. sent its first container of beef to China. Their beef is now in 25 retail stores in Shanghai.

“We were the first company to legally export beef (Canadian) into mainland China,” said Blaine Buckle in a 2015 Yorkton This Week story.

The initial shipment was two containers of beef, “the equivalent of about 100-head of fat cattle,” he said.

Wendell Estate Honey from MacNutt has also made forays into China.

To diversify their sales, Martin Neuhofer said in a 2013 YTW story the company wanted to develop a line of products for the high-end consumer market both domestically and abroad.

The business had already undertaken its first run of product, soft-creamed-honey presented in jars, with sales in Canada, as well as Japan and China.

Neuhofer said then they were looking to generate sales through gift shops, high-end wine stores and similar locations, where it can sell at a significant premium as a hostess gift or as a corporate gift.

As an example, a twelve ounce jar of the Wendell Estate Honey retails for some $18 in Montreal and $40 in China, he said.

While there are hurdles to be cleared to trade with China, the sheer scale of the market is enticing. Choi pointed just to the city of Shanghai with its population of 32 million, only a couple of million less than all of Canada. A growing middle class has dollars to spend on quality import products.

With American president Donald Trump becoming increasingly protectionist in his trade policies the chance for Canadian business, including those local manufacturers, to look further afield certainly seems timely. There are already examples of how it can work. 

© Copyright 2018 Yorkton This Week

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