By Melanie Epp
Founded in 2005, the Canadian Soybean Council (CSC) is a national organization that represents the major soybean growing regions of Canada: Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. The three founding organizations include the Manitoba Pulse Growers Association (MPGA), Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) and La Fedration des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Quebec (FPCCQ). CSC’s mission is to promote high-value, traceable, safe and quality-assured Canadian soybeans in both export and domestic markets.
CSC’s main focus is the promotion of Canadian soybeans in both domestic and export markets and to that end, this past year, the three founding organizations conducted a strategic review with their members in order to increase participation and knowledge transfer among the provinces. The organization has chosen to focus less on government relations, lobbying and export market development than it did in the past.
To promote Canadian soybean markets, CSC has conducted a number of activities, including incoming and outgoing programs. “For the incoming programs,” says Nicole MacKellar, co-ordinator, “we invite delegates from countries with export markets that we see as either a potential to grow our market share, or where we are well established in that market and we really want to further the relationship with them.”
This past year, a group of visiting delegates got an opportunity to see soybean fields in Manitoba, Quebec, and Ontario, and to speak directly with soybean producers in those provinces.
Delegates were also given the opportunity to visit soybean-processing plants, which allowed them to see firsthand the quality control systems that Canadian facilities have in place.
For outgoing programs, CSC takes delegates from across the soybean industry to countries around the world, markets where the CSC is looking to expand or where it sees potential growth. “We go over and host industry seminars in various export countries,” says MacKellar. “These seminars help to highlight Canadian soybean production capabilities and advantages to those present.”
The theme of this year’s program was “Looking to the Future” and it included information on Canada’s points of differentiation, including our segregation system, environmental sustainability practices in soybean production and production protocols that ensure Canadian food-grade soybeans are of the highest quality. “All of the information verifies that our customers are being delivered the quality Canadian product that they were looking for,” says MacKellar.
Delegates also got the opportunity to visit several processing facilities within those export countries. “This is really a great opportunity for us as Canadians to have a better understanding of the quality and functional characteristics buyers are looking for and the production procedures that the buyers use to develop their products,” she says. “And it also gives us an opportunity to really talk one on one with the customer.”
This past year’s incoming programs saw visiting delegates from Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. CSC’s outgoing programs were hosted in Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, as well as in Europe, which was a first for the organization. In Europe, CSC delegates met with processors, industry representatives and government officials to gather as much information as possible to bring back to share with those in the Canadian soybean industry.
“It was a bit different than the outgoing programs that we have done in Asia,” says MacKellar. “It was really more of a fact-finding mission. We were going to Europe to have a better understanding of the market and regulations and the practices that they have put in place that Canada, as an exporting country, would need to be adhering to.”
Soybean production in Quebec has increased in the past few years. Most of Quebec’s soybeans are exported overseas, mainly to Asian and European markets, with the balance used in Ontario. Acreage in Quebec is expected to increase, not decline, creating a need for more export markets.
“If you look back a few years ago in Quebec, we were producing 2 to 300,000 tons. Now we’re getting closer and closer to a million tons,” says Ramzy Yelda, the marketing and market analysis director at FPCCQ. “Obviously, you need more market opportunities for all of this emerging product. And I think this is where the Canadian Soybean Council has been playing a bigger role.”
The story is similar in Manitoba. “We started out with very little soybean production in Manitoba, and we had remained that way for a few years,” says Mike Reimer of Manitoba Pulse Growers. “What CSC has allowed us to do was some of the market development work – the outgoing exploratory missions that we may not have been able to do otherwise, given that we are quite a small organization.”
“Through CSC we have been able to take advantage of those opportunities,” says Reimer. “We’re up to 7 or 800,000 planted acres this year, and that’s been a steady incline in the last four years, so certainly we have benefited from the worldwide, global exposure that CSC has provided us with.”
Both this year and in the future, CSC will be conducting further incoming and outgoing missions. “We feel that these are important programs that allow us to speak directly, one on one, with customers and really have an understanding of what their needs are,” says MacKellar. “It is also an opportunity to share everything that we are doing, from our producer’s standpoint, in order to ensure that we’re providing export countries with the quality Canadian product that they are looking for.”
CSC will be developing several publications this year, as well.
The Canadian Soybean Dispatch will focus on informing buyers in exporting countries of new developments in the Canadian soybean industry and will communicate the results of the Canadian food-grade soybean crop.
Since The Dispatch will be tailored to the needs of the Asian market mostly, the CSC are also developing a brochure specifically for the European market. This brochure will provide a quick, visual overview of Canadian soybean production, and will be complemented by a promotional video for use in both incoming and outgoing activities.
Finally, CSC will be attending a number of upcoming trade shows, including the World Soybean Research Conference in South Africa, as well as the Soy and Grain Trade Summit in New Orleans.