Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Zone: Half a year of agricultural exports – where are we now?

In summer 2017 Canada and Ukraine agreed on free trade area relations. What has changed in agricultural trade since that time?

Surely, free trade agreement between two countries reveals huge opportunities for Ukrainian agricultural producers. Finally, they have got access to vast and diverse Canadian consumer market.

Canada has agreed to reduce a majority of duty rates all the way down to 0% for Ukrainian agricultural entrepreneurs. But tariff-rate quotas, which were applied earlier to 108 goods and products, are still in force. In its turn, Ukraine, seeking to protect domestically-produced products from highly competitive imports, will incrementally abolish custom fees for Canadian companies in the next 3-5 and 7 years. These measures are taken to help domestic producers stay in business.

Free trade deal signing brings major changes for Ukrainian agricultural sector. On one hand, they are able to freely import their goods to Canada, but on the other, the product quality must be high and they should meet strict requirements in multiple stage quality control procedure. Despite this, far from everyone will take advantage that is offered by such cooperation.

Immigrants create a demand

With its hidden pitfalls Canada consumer market is really hard area to bring exported food products to. Over the last few years increase in Canadian population is drastically low. This is the reason of tightening food quality regulations. In Canada the most widely consumed products are meat, processed meat products, wheat, and processed wheat products. These products are produced in abundance by Canadian agricultural entrepreneurs – the mentioned niche is already full and there is hardly any place for Ukrainian grain crop exporters there.

“In spite of such complicated background there is always a way out,” says Paul Darby, CUTIS Project Manager and Executive Director International Partnerships at The Conference Board of Canada. Immigrants from various countries, including Ukraine, represent a significant part of the Canadian population and create strong demand for food product diversity. Niche product export is thought to be a high-potential growth area.

“In Canada supermarket food product offerings include frozen vareniki, but they are imported from USA. Why would not Ukrainian entrepreneurs take this niche?” says Paul Darby. As he explains, supermarket shelves are rich with variety of traditional food products.

Taking into account the fact, that in Canada live more than 1.5 million of Ukrainians, national agricultural producer products will be in great demand with this ethnic group. Zenon Poticzny, President at Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, believes that the majority of such products can be labeled organic. “For example, birch water for export is justly considered organic, and large retailer chains willingly sell such products,” points Zenon Poticzny.

Ukrainian entrepreneurs activities shall comply with a number of import and export regulatory requirements, which makes go-to-market a bit complicated but there are niches that Ukrainian products will fit well. It should be noted that premium segment is expending rapidly. This trend should not be underrated while choosing products for export. It means that in the coming years demand on fresh and frozen vegetables, fruits, organic and natural products, juices and preserved food will grow among Canadian consumers. Single-serving buys as well are getting more popular. This is another point to consider attentively.

Not everybody can succeed

Despite free trade agreement and huge food market, exporting goods to Canada is a challenge. Canadian Border Service Agency has some similar functions as the State Committee of Ukraine for Technical Regulation and Consumer Policy renders. It is responsible for various imported food, plant and animal (FPA) products checking. If any sanitary and phytosanitary issue arises, it can cause damage to country image.

Let’s say Ukrainian products are certified by the state control agencies. At this point it is worth noting that supply to retailer chains is another question to solve. Most of the food products (up to 60%) are offered by supermarkets, so independent shops and smaller retail chain share gets lower. Producers should focus on trade relations establishment. Only this way their products can be seen and chosen by Canadian consumers. Canadian multinational retail companies do not spend much time on discussions; they tend to work directly with the agricultural producers, avoiding any third party involvement. Clients are interested not just in required certificates availability, but as well company reputation, social responsibility actions and business plan for future development. Local entrepreneurs must be ready to comply with them all.

Dmitriy Kozonak, Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce member, is sure that Ukrainian agricultural producers success with foreign partners mainly depends on mere interest and genuine involvement. “Entrepreneurs should constantly actively communicate with partners, provide complete business information and express development vision,” explains Dmitriy Kozonak. As the expert sees current situation, the way of thinking prevents Ukrainian producers from confidently taking considerable Canada market share. “The majority of producers shows poor engagement strategy, they are self-assured and simply do not know what goods are in demand. Here is the problem,” adds up the expert.

Huge opportunities

Official figures show that in 2017 Ukraine agri-food exports were valued at $5.8 million, and processed vegetables (canned goods and juices) exports amounted from $83,000 to $2.5 million. Analysts forecast that Canada-Ukraine cooperation will induce agricultural export growth for another 3.5% each year. By various estimates almost 31% of Canadian consumer are willing to pay more for healthy food. It means that food processing entrepreneurs are in fortunate position that opens bigger opportunities for them.

Effective business cooperation with Canadian companies rely on some simple and easy-to-understand rules. Your company must comply with all the norms and regulations and have good reputation among foreign partners. By the way, these requirements are as well easy to fulfill since government agencies and trade associations are ready to give a helping hand. Moreover, all the necessary information can be found in the correspondent web resources.

The experts of CUTIS Project, which has been established under terms of the free trade zone agreement, provide substantial assistance to companies that are planning to export products to Canada. Canada Trade Facilitation Office is a provider of information and advice for small exporters in developing and emerging countries. This organization helps small business to come with their products to Canadian market.

Source: Agroportal.ua