Canada has huge opportunities for fruit exports to Europe that are being left unrealised, despite the opening up of trade between EU countries and the North American nation. This is a key message that Canadian trade visitors to fresh produce trade exhibition Fruit Attraction will be delivering this month as they seek to boost sales of Canada’s blueberries, cherries and other products.
With Canada, along with the Middle East, the special focus for attention at this year’s Fruit Attraction, which takes place in Madrid, Spain from 23-25 October, Canadian visitors – including an official delegation – are looking to increase trade between the two destinations for some of the country’s strongest fruit exports.
Particularly in the wake of the coming into force of the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA) in September 2017, many Canadian exporters believe there is huge, unrealised potential for boosting fruit exports as part of a deal that has so far been dominated by European produce imports to the country.
Kelly Shabatowski, an export sales agent who works for Consolidated Fruit Packers (CFP) based in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, currently exports fresh cherries, blueberries and apples to various countries around the world and has had a successful 2018 season. CFP was founded as a sales and marketing company for fresh blueberries in 1993. While blueberries remain a focus for the company, it has since expanded its offer to include locally grown cherries, stone fruit, pears and multiple varieties of apples.
The company, which partners with multiple growers throughout the Okanagan Valley, markets its own 'Big Taste' brand as well as representing independent brands of local growers into various wholesale and retail outlets across Europe.
Shabatowski said: "Exports to Europe since the signing of CETA have been on a steady increase and have given Canada a great advantage to be more competitive with the reduction of tariffs and duty to zero on the commodities we currently ship. There are tremendous opportunities that have yet to be uncovered in Europe, with this in mind CFP has a strategic plan in place to utilise the benefits of the new trade agreement between Europe and Canada."
However, some in Canada’s fresh produce sector did sound a cautionary note. Beth Cavers, program administrator for the British Columbia Cherry Association, said that although the ratification of CETA was definitely helpful for the region’s cherry exports, shipments to Europe were complicated by strong competition from growers within the EU. Cavers said implementation of the EU’s new Plant Health legislation in December 2019 could also affect British Columbia cherry exports to Europe.
Reflecting Canada’s importance as an importer of European-grown fruits and vegetables, Fruit Attraction will also be staging a one-day seminar on export opportunities in Canada as part of its World Fresh Forum. The seminar, titled ‘Canada: Keys and opportunities to tackle the market,’ will feature contributions from Karen Kennedy, Senior Trade Commissioner for Canada in Spain.