Land of opportunity? Canadian county looks to attract Asian F&B firms with trade benefits

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Canada’s Parkland County is looking to attract major food and beverage companies from Asia to set up local processing facilities. ©Getty Images
Canada’s Parkland County is looking to attract major food and beverage companies from Asia to set up local processing facilities. ©Getty Images

Related tags Canada Asia trade agreements

Canada’s Parkland County is looking to attract major food and beverage companies from Asia to set up local processing facilities, banking on its location, investor assistance and the many trade agreements that Canada has in place with nearby countries as its USP.

Parkland County is located in Alberta province, close to the province’s capital city of Edmonton. Its location right outside but still in proximity to the main city puts it in the unique position of having enough wide open spaces to build processing plants, but still be located close enough to the airport such that any raw materials air-flown in from Asia can maintain maximum freshness.

“Parkland is close to a lot of great agricultural produce which can be used to make high quality products, but also has excellent transportation connections, and the nearby Edmonton airport actually has the closest flight curvature to Asia from anywhere in North America,”​ Parkland County Director of Economic Diversification Robert Fernandez told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“The average flight time from Asian cities like Singapore or Hong Kong is 10 to 11 hours, and Edmonton airport is one of the very few in North America that operate 24/7, no matter the weather too - which means that the cargo opportunities are massive for flying in high quality fresh produce in from Asia.

“In addition, we have many companies here that are cold chain and logistics experts who are used to handling the weather here and looking after temperature-sensitive ingredients – for example, if a company wanted to ensure they got their pork flown in air-chilled and not frozen to guarantee quality, we can guarantee that happens even with the freezing temperatures in the region.”

Parkland County also has a specialised Major Business Attraction Program which for investors that come in with ‘sizeable investments’​ – the services provided under this include a dedicated cross-departmental team to help with things like scouting for plant sites, getting permits, working out logistics and more.

“We’ll even go all the way to help with figuring out road access if the company’s perfect site is somehow in a non-accessible area – this includes things like building a road, which would require local government approval and communication,”​ said Fernandez.

“Even more importantly though, any Asian food and beverage company that decides to set up shop in Parkland would also have access to the many trade agreements that Canada is a part of – products made in a processing facility located here would be able to carry the Made in Canada brand, granting the product access to many markets without duties or taxes.

“This means direct trade access with – and closer proximity to – countries such as the United States, Mexico, and the whole of the European Union, and at a cheaper cost than setting up shop in the United States too based on currency differential (about 25% less).”

As of 2020, Canada has signed FTAs with 16 countries/trade bodies outside of the APAC region which are the United States, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Panama, Honduras, Israel, Jordan, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the European Union. It also has FTAs with Australia, Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam.

Local ingredients

The other major advantage to placing a processing plant in Canada would be the proximity to local and regional ingredients that would be much more expensive if these were to be exported back to Asia.

“We’ve got really good meat and bison beef here, as well as crops such as canola, alfalfa, peas and honey - Conditions in the region are generally well-suited for grains, oilseeds, pulses, cannabis, hemp, and livestock production, and we’ve been making strides in diversifying agriculture, with our latest focus now on cannabis and hemp,”​ said Fernandez.

“I believe that firms looking to produce higher, premium quality products would like what we have to offer – so foods that naturally need to be high quality and safe such as infant milk, children food, fruits and so on would be especially good fits.

“I also say this because they would not need to worry about things like toxins or pesticides here, as these are very highly regulated here in Canada.”

Some food companies that already have facilities located in or around the county include Cargill (hamburger patty plant with a daily production capacity of three million; supplies McDonald’s Canada) and Whole Leaf (greenhouses that produce 40,000 to 60,000 heads of lettuce a week; supplies Wendy’s Canada).

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