Indian exporters can tap the USD 120 billion Canadian food and beverage market, says H. E. Mr. Ajay Bisaria

Canadian food and beverage market is a high value market, of the size of about USD 120 billion. Canadian global imports in this sector in 2020 were about USD 36 billion, of which imports from India amounted to just about USD 427 million. Indian exporters can promote Brand India in the organic, Ayurvedic, vegan and health foods sectors, said H. E. Mr. Ajay Bisaria, High Commissioner of India in Canada at the webinar on ‘Business Opportunities in Agro Commodities and Food Processing in Canada’, jointly organised by World Trade Center Mumbai and High Commission of India in Canada in partnership with BC India Business Network.

H. E. Mr. Bisaria remarked, Canada has a population of only about 38 million, however, 21 per cent of this population comprises of immigrants. It is a geographically-large and high-income country. Canada is a growing G7 economy, with a GDP of about USD 1.65 trillion in 2020, and is expected to grow by 4 per cent. It has a strong partnership with India, with shared traditions of democracy, pluralism and strong people-to-people ties. Canada hosts 1.7 million Indo-Canadians, who serve as powerful business networks.

Mr. Bisaria emphasized, “There is almost USD 100 billion exchange between India and Canada in the form of trade, investment, remittances etc. Today, Canadian pension funds have an investment exposure of over USD 60 billion in the Indian market, up from USD 5 billion in 2014, generating excellent returns. We hope Canadian portfolio investments in India exceed USD 100 billion by 2025. Trade between India and Canada stood at USD 6.4 billion in 2020, with Indian exports amounting to USD 3.7 billion. However, there is ample scope to enhance the same.”

He suggested, Canada has a very health-conscious population; and the food and beverage business is moving towards e-commerce. This trend accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic, and it offers an opportunity to reach Canadian customers directly. There also exist opportunities in niche sectors such as coffee, with retail coffee market in Canada having the potential to reach USD 4 billion by December 2021. Canadian coffee imports stand at about USD 1.9 billion.

Mr. Bisaria remarked, more than 80 per cent of fresh fruits demand in Canada is met through imports. Canada imported about USD 7 billion worth of fresh fruits and vegetables in 2020, which includes bananas, grapes, oranges, water melons, apples, potatoes etc. Canadian market is fairly similar to the US market, but with some distinct characteristics. Canadian demand is well aligned with India’s export strengths as India offers the entire gamut of fruits and vegetables. The key lies in synchronizing India’s production and processing with the food requirements in Canada.

Mr. Bisaria opined, India and Canada are discussing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and an investment-promotion agreement, in which India wishes to have greater market access in the food, beverage and agricultural products sector in Canada. The Indian High Commission in Canada extends all its support to Indian exporters willing to do business in Canada, and is working with the Canadian government to make business travel smoother, as the pandemic abates. We now have about 35 direct flights operating every week between India and Canada.

During the programme, Mr. Anshuman Gaur, Deputy High Commissioner of India to Canada, made a presentation on the Canadian food and beverages market.

Mr. Gaur suggested, Canadian food and beverages market is a very quality-conscious and well-regulated market. Given that Canada is a cold country, with a short production season and limitations in the variety of products that can be produced, there is tremendous scope for exporting food and agricultural products to Canada. India’s exports to Canada in the food and beverages sector have been growing over the past five years.

Mr. Gaur expressed, the pandemic has increased the uptake of e-commerce in Canada, and there is tremendous demand for vegan and health foods. Canada is witnessing the strongest inflation in 20 years. Indian exporters can target the ingredients sector of the Canadian food and beverages market, as well as the retail market. Although the retail market is competitive, returns on investment are high in Canada.

He explained, Canada’s proximity and integration with the North American market, and similarity with the US and EU markets, make it an attractive export destination for Indians exporting to these markets. Canadians are willing to pay more for higher quality, however, the standards for approved chemicals and residue tolerances are very stringent. Food exporters to Canada need to be aware of the various food packaging, labeling and traceability requirements, safety standards and guidelines, safety investigation and recall process, testing bulletins, food incident and response process, and foodborne illness outbreak response protocol in Canada.

New regulatory initiatives are coming into effect in December 2021 in Canada, requiring consumer-packaged foods high in sodium, sugar and / or saturate fats to carry front-of-package labels. It would also be required to display serving size, percentage daily value calculations, vitamins A and C removed, amount in mg for potassium, calcium, iron etc.

Mr. Gaur opined, Canada requires certification for organic food, and APEDA, in India, is working with its Canadian counterparts to put in place the certification process. MPEDA is also working on easing the certification process for marine exports to Canada.

Earlier in his Welcome Address, Dr. Vijay Kalantri, Chairman, MVIRDC World Trade Center Mumbai suggested, “The High Commission of India in Canada has always been very active in promoting trade and business opportunities between India and Canada. Today, every country is talking about food security, and there lie vast opportunities between India and Canada in the food processing and agro-commodities sectors. Trade in these sectors also gives a fillip to various allied industries, such as machineries, equipment, packaging, marketing, distribution etc.”

Dr. Kalantri further remarked, “Trade between India and Canada needs to be enhanced; and therefore, we need to create awareness about the growing opportunities in the agro and food processing sectors between India and Canada, given the realignment of global value chains since the Covid-19 pandemic. We also need technology transfers and technology-upgradation to meet the growing demand, and engage more number of entrepreneurs and MSMEs to take advantage of the same.”

Mr. Vivek Savkur, CEO, BC-India Business Network proposed the Vote of Thanks.

The programme was attended by members of trade and industry, academia, Consular Corps and MSMEs from India and Canada.