Ag minister returns from trade mission to UAE and India to advance trade expansion
March 6, 2023, 2:26 pm
Sierra D'Souza Butts
From Feb. 13 to Feb. 22, Saskatchewan’s Agriculture Minister David Marit led a delegation to India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a trade mission, as well attended the Pulses Conclave in Mumbai, India and the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai, UAE.
In 2022, Saskatchewan was the United Arab Emirates’ and India’s largest supplier of lentils, accounting for 70 per cent and 55 per cent of the country’s imports, respectively.
“The trip was about trying to improve trade and building relationships,” Marit said.
“I was there three years ago and spoke at their Pulses Conclave, and spoke at it again this year. India buys an awful lot of lentils and pretty much all of them come from Saskatchewan.
“We are about 90 per cent of the export business so it was important for us to build relationships with companies that do business there, that buy our product, and process it. As well, to see if there were opportunities for expansion and growth.
“Also we wanted to hear from them if there are challenges in dealing with Saskatchewan companies or buying Saskatchewan product. The concern that we heard most was the logistical part of it, but the one thing I did hear quite significantly is they really like our product.”
Marit spoke about some of the challenges and feedback stakeholders shared with him, during his visit.
“The biggest issue is really logistics. Other than that, they have no problem in dealing with Canadian companies,” he said.
“They love buying Saskatchewan product for, probably the two biggest reasons, the consistency in the product, and the high quality of the product. Even with some of the companies in Dubai that I met with as well, they like Canadian lentils because of the process side of things.”
In 2022, total exports to India were valued at $1.4 billion, according to the Government of Saskatchewan.
“Between India and Dubai, over $700 million a year goes into those two markets,” Marit said.
“We were at the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai. There was over 4,000 exhibitors from around the world, and a waiting list of thousands of people trying to get in.
“We met with companies that are from Saskatchewan that do business in that whole Gulf region. They like being in Dubai as a business hub and exporting from there, but they also are obviously looking at building facilities in India. Some of the big players here in the province are looking at facilities to store, and distribute from there as well.
“There’s lots of potential, lots of opportunity, and that’s what the mission was about, where can we grow that business, to let them know that we’re open for business here as well, and expanding our trade.
“The more we expand our trade the better opportunity the farmers and ranchers here have for improving their bottom line, when you have more customers who want your product. And, we’re seeing that, we’re seeing that growth in India and Dubai.
“We’re seeing that growth consistently over the last two years. Obviously canola oil, canola seed is still a big player, non-durum wheats are as well, and even some growth in other ones like oats are starting to grow. We see opportunity in that market as well.”
Ongoing partnership is important for the province’s future
Saskatchewan’s continued partnership with both India and Dubai are important for the province’s future, said Marit.
“It’s very important and that’s why we made it pretty clear and opened the trade offices. We opened one in Dubai and one in Delhi,” he said.
“When we see the numbers growing the way they are, when we see the population growing in that whole Asia region, we see some great opportunities.
“We also see, and heard from both, where the diets are changing in those countries as well. There are more people coming into middle class, they want to eat healthier and better foods, and that’s what we do.
“We grow it here, so we see it as a great opportunity. That’s why it was very important to open the offices and quite frankly, those offices have already more or less paid for themselves, and have opened doors to the meetings we had with very high officials within the Indian government, and in Dubai as well.
“It’s very important for us to have boots on the ground. What I did see was those government officials and those companies really look to our resource staff that are on the ground there for guidance and input. They have a great mutual respect for each other, and that’s key.”
Marit said the possibility of expanding and growing Saskatchewan’s agri-food exports with UAE and India is on the right path.
“I think there’s some great opportunities,” said Marit.
“We can’t talk about them at this time, but I can say we met with some companies that are very interested in looking at what we grow here, how we grow it, and in expanding that side of it, or looking at investment opportunities as well.”
Saskatchewan has a network of nine international trade offices, two of which are in India and the United Arab Emirates.
The offices are working to grow Saskatchewan’s exports, attract investment into the province and strengthen relationships with the province’s partners in these markets.
“The people at the offices, for Saskatchewan companies who go over there, they help assist in setting up meetings and work with them as well,” said Marit.
“Also if there’s businesses or government in those countries that have concerns and want to meet to officials here in Saskatchewan, they can help orchestrate that.
“I could go on a whole list of the meetings I had, I don’t know how we would have done it without some of the folks on the ground. We used to go through the Canadian Consul, they’re a great venue and I really want to take this opportunity to thank the Canadian Consuls because they allowed us into their offices which really did well.
“When I talked to the Consul Generals from both India and Dubai, they said the same thing. That it’s been a great fit, a great collaboration and partnership. They welcomed it. Obviously why it’s important for us is because Saskatchewan’s priorities are a lot different than let’s say Ontario or Quebec or British Columbia or any other jurisdiction. We just want to make sure we have the right folks on the ground to guide, whether it’s business or government, that want to talk to us about whatever it might be, that we have the expertise on the ground to do so.”
Premier Scott Moe also led a trade and investment mission to India to promote closer ties between the two jurisdictions in the areas of critical mineral and natural resource development, agriculture, post-secondary education and sustainability.