IICA TT, exporTT & CFIA to get exporters ready for Canadian agri-food market.

IICA TT, exporTT & CFIA to get exporters ready for Canadian agri-food market.

Port of Spain, 30 September 2020 (IICA).

Market research undertaken by exporTT among T&T exporters “identified Canada as the second top market of interest, after the US.” So stated Maria Padilla-Benjamin, exporTT’s Manager Training. exporTT is the national facilitation agency with responsibility for export development of all goods and services. In a virtual meeting with the with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), on 22 September, facilitated by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) offices in Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, Padilla-Benjamin confirmed that based on this research, exporTT’s role is to transition exporters to meet Canadian market requirements for agri-food exports. This in keeping with its mandate its mandate to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago has a diversified and sustainable export sector.

Demand for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Canadian market is strong and growing. According to Dr. Jean Charles Le Vallée, IICA Representative in Canada “We import roughly three-quarters of our produce in Canada, with year-round availability of tropical fruits that we don’t produce driven by demand from Canadians who travel and discover more tropical foods”. Le Vallée confirmed that Canadian fresh fruit imports have continuously increased over the last two decades, with CAD$6.4 billion in fresh fruits imported in 2019. Canada’s leading source country for fruit imports continues to be the United States (US), accounting for 40% of import value, followed by Mexico with 17%, Chile with 6% and Guatemala with 5%.”

The CFIA is the regulatory authority dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants in Canada. The Agency works to verify that food products imported into Canada meet Canadian requirements. Alia Blais from the CFIA’s International Affairs Branch confirmed that while Canada is an important destination market for agri-food products, it differs in some ways to other markets. For example, Canada’s maximum residue level (MRL) regulations as well as Canada’s list of allergens differ from those of other countries. Canada’s new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) require imported food to be prepared with the same level of food safety controls as food prepared in Canada. The regulations are built on three major elements based on prevention-focused international standards: licensing, preventive controls and traceability.

It is market specifics such as these that exporters need to know about when making decisions on investing in export readiness for markets of interest. Getting this knowledge first-hand, to enhance exporTT’s to focus on the Canadian market and build export readiness of local exporters, was the reason for the first IICA-facilitated exporTT-CFIA conversation. IICA-TT and exporTT have been collaborating over the last two years, to build capacity of local exporters to meet US market import requirements for fresh and processed agri-food products. In emphasizing the importance of knowing and complying with export market requirements, IICA-Canada’s Le Vallée confirmed that “the very first question a Canadian importer will ask is ‘are you HACCP ready’, for which there is only one acceptable answer; Yes!” The main message here is that – HACCP opens doors to export markets; food scares slam them shut!

To this end, exporTT, CFIA and IICA will host an Introductory Webinar on Safe Food Canada, to clarify the import regulations for agri-food products into Canada, the role of the CFIA, and expectations and requirements of importers. ExporTT will pitch the Webinar to exporters already certified in HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point).  According to Lisa Harrynanan, IICA-TT’s AHFS specialist, “this Webinar is going to be something new, and will generate interest, not just for T&T exporters, but also several of their peers in CARICOM who have already targeted the Canadian market for both fresh and processed agri-food products”. Harrynanan confirmed that while T&T fresh produce exports to Canada are somewhat low and declined in recent years, there are a few medium-large scale food manufactures who export to Canada, guided by independent food safety experts. The National Agricultural Marketing Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO), has also been supporting export readiness of local farmers interested in exporting to Canada.

Le Vallée and the IICA-TT Representative, Diana Francis, committed IICA’s support to facilitate the CFIA-exporTT connection with a specific initial target being to host the Webinar in early to mid-November. It is also anticipated, that sharing the information and outcomes of this Webinar with exporters in CARICOM would enhance the regional objective of expanding agri-food trade between CARICOM and Canada.

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