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Agriculture
A Top Export Prospect for Colombia

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Overview

The following information on Canada's market for U.S. agricultural and food products was prepared by the Foreign Agriculture Service at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa. For further information and for assistance in marketing U.S. agricultural and food products in Canada, U.S. exporters should contact:

Office of Agricultural Affairs
U.S. Embassy, Canada
P.O. Box 5000
Ogdensburg, NY 13669-0430
Telephone: (613) 688-5267
Fax: (613) 688-3124
Email: agottawa@usda.gov

In 2010, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada reached a record $16.9 billion. U.S. agricultural exports to Canada accounted for 14.5 percent of total U.S. food and agricultural product exports of $115.8 billion. American products accounted for almost 62 percent of total Canadian agricultural imports in 2010.

During 2010 a number of consumer oriented agricultural categories posted record sales to Canada. The top 5 categories are fresh vegetables ($1.6 billion), fresh fruit ($1.5 billion), snack foods ($1.5 billion), red meats ($1.47 billion), processed fruits and vegetables ($1 billion). Combined items in these categories accounted for more than half of total U.S. exports of consumer-oriented agricultural products to Canada.

U.S. fish and seafood exports to Canada reached $797 million in 2010. Despite being a major producer and world exporter of forest products, Canadian imports of U.S. forest products reached $2.1 billion in 2010. Combined, total U.S. farm, fish and forestry product exports to Canada reached a record $19.8 billion in 2010. Total bilateral agricultural trade between the U.S. and Canada reached $43.8 billion in 2010, more than $120 million per day.

Under the tariff elimination provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the majority of U.S. agricultural products have entered Canada duty-free since January 1, 1998. On December 4, 1998 the United States and Canada signed a Record of Understanding, an agreement to further open Canadian markets to U.S. farm and ranch products. Some tangible benefits of the agreement are already accruing to the U.S. agricultural industry.

Canadian consumers enjoy a high disposable income, coupled with a growing interest in global cuisine and the country's wide ethnic diversity that provides broad food marketing opportunities. Canada's grocery product and foodservice trade have been quick to seize opportunities under NAFTA by expanding their geographical sourcing area to include the

United States. The familiarity and confidence in Canadian based U.S. chains (hotels, restaurants and fast food) have helped to increase the demand for high value U.S. foods. Since U.S. food products match Canadian tastes and expectations there have been significant gains in the Canadian market for U.S. consumer ready foods.

On the basis of current market trends and conditions, the following sectors are considered to be best prospects for U.S. exports of food and agricultural products to Canada:

1. Food Service
2. Snack Food
3. Fresh Vegetables
4. Fresh Fruit
5. Organic Food
6. Red Meats
7. Processed Fruit and Vegetables

The markets for these best prospects are analyzed below.

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Food Service

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

61,170

63,310

65250

Total Local Production

60,680

62,545

64,305

Total Exports

14,800

15,060

15,370

Total Imports

15,290

15,830

16,310

Imports from the U.S.

8,715

9,020

9,300


Sources: Conference Board of Canada, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservice Association, Statistics Canada, World Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

Canada's restaurant and foodservice industry plays a key role in Canada's economy. With over $60 billion in sales, it accounts for nearly 4.0 percent of Canada's gross domestic product. Foodservice is the fourth-largest employer in Canada with over 80,800 establishments, including restaurants, cafeterias, snack bars, pubs, and caterers. According to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Canada's foodservice sector will grow by approximately 2.9 per cent in 2012. The industry's growth is expected to be small as factors such as rising food prices and economic uncertainty continue to take their toll, causing more Canadians to eat at home and favor cheaper fast food locations over finer dining outlets.

Exports of U.S. food products to Canada's foodservice industry continue to demonstrate year to year increases. This is due in part to a strong links between American raw product suppliers and U.S. retail and distribution companies operating in Canada. A highly efficient truck-based transportation and distribution system allows the Canadian foodservice industry to procure U.S. food product offerings directly from U.S. manufacturers in a timely fashion while providing consistent quality and supply.

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Snack Food

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

2,680

2,870

2,985

Total Local Production

2,400

2,475

2,550

Total Exports

2,110

2,405

2,740

Total Imports

1,805

1,980

2,060

Imports from the U.S.

1,465

1,610

1,675

Sources: Statistics Canada, Industry Canada, Global Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

Canadian consumers appear to like snack foods as 67 percent of the population eat 1 – 2 snacks daily. Snack foods have been one of the fastest growing product categories in the domestic market in recent years and are widely available in all retail channels across the country, including major chain grocery retailers, large format outlets, corner stores, drug stores, gas stations and vending machines as well as at movie theaters and sporting events. Traditionally the snack food industry was domestically oriented, exporting only 2.5 percent of its domestically made products in 1994, while imports accounted for 8.0 percent of the domestic market the same year. Ten years later the Canadian industry still held a substantial portion of the domestic market. However, integration of the North American market, which has occurred since the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1989, has resulted in significant import penetration. This has only been partially offset with an increase in exports. Detailed information on domestic sales of snack foods in all channels is not available. In 2004, ACNielsen reported retail sales of snack foods at major grocery retail outlets, including potato chips, tortillas and corn chips, extruded snacks, pretzels, popping corn, shelled nuts and fruit snacks, totaling $981.4 million. The snack category is expected to grow by 20.8 percent by 2020, products as yogurt, raisins and granola bars are popular sellers. In 2003, Canadian per capita spending on snack food products (not including peanut butter) was about $24. Canadian per capita spending on peanut butter in 2003 amounted to about $4. Retail sales of peanut butter in 2004 totaled $131.9 million. (ACNielsen) Fat content and health aspects of snack food products do not seem to be important issues for all consumers, as by their very nature, snack foods are considered to be an indulgence. However, increased consumer interest in weight loss and healthy eating is causing the industry to rethink the production processes of existing products as products offering controlled portions of 100 calories and low cholesterol snacks are in demand. For example, processed seed snacks, nuts and dried fruit and nut mixtures offer healthy choices to some consumers and continue to capture a portion of the snack food market in Canada. U.S. salted snack food exports to Canada include popcorn, corn chips, potato chips, and other savory snack foods while the sweet snack food category is comprised of chewing gum, sugar candy and chocolate confectionery, cookies, waffles, crisp breads, and other biscuit and baked snack products. The category excludes nuts.

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Fresh Vegetables

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

3,970

4,130

4,200

Total Local Production

3,080

3,125

3,175

Total Exports

1,175

1,280

1,275

Total Imports

2,065

2,285

2,300

Imports from the U.S.

1,365

1,520

1,575

Sources: Statistics Canada, Global Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

Canada is by far the largest market for U.S. fresh vegetables, absorbing 75 percent of American exports in this product category. On a per capita basis, Canada has one of the highest consumption rates of fresh vegetables in the world. Demand for U.S. vegetables is enhanced due to the short Canadian domestic growing season for vegetables in Canada's northern climate. However, despite the rough climatic conditions, the local growers supply about half of the market demand through an extensive greenhouse production of peppers, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers. In recent years, Canadian immigration has been dominated by new arrivals from Asia, where traditional dietary habits also include significant amounts of fresh vegetables. The immigrant population has also led to an increased demand of exotic vegetables. In recent years, food safety issues have risen to the forefront and Canadian consumers generally maintain a high level of confidence in the safety of U.S. fresh vegetables. In addition, fresh vegetable consumption is recommended in Health Canada's food guide for Canadian consumers. Under NAFTA, American fresh vegetable exports enter Canada duty free. A modern transportation and wholesale dealer network provides Canadian buyers with prompt delivery and relatively reduced spoilage.

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Fresh Fruit

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

3,400

3,685

3,740

Total Local Production

670

675

690

Total Exports

175

205

200

Total Imports

2,900

3,215

3,250

Imports from the U.S.

1,3850

1,560

1,575

Sources: Statistics Canada, Global Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

With a 50 percent market share, Canada is by far the most important market for U.S. exports of fresh fruit. Canada is heavily dependent on imports of fresh fruit to meet total market demand due to the Canadian climate’s limited growing season and variety of fruits that can be grown. Over 80 percent of the Canadian fresh fruit market is supplied through imports. Strong U.S. sales gains have been made for fresh strawberries, other berries, grapes, cherries and citrus. An aging Canadian population has contributed to an increased interest in healthy alternatives with regard to diet – a development that is leading to increased demand for quality produce. Major U.S. growers and shippers retain membership in the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, which is an important advocate for the industry in Canada on food safety and trade issues and key promoter of increased fresh fruit consumption among Canadians.

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Organic Food

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

1,975

2,070

2,175

Total Local Production

390

405

420

Total Exports

95

100

105

Total Imports

1,580

1,665

1.755

Imports from the U.S.

1,185

1,250

1.315

Sources: Statistics Canada, Global Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

While there are no official statistics on the organics market in Canada, the industry estimates total annual retail sales of certified organic products reached approximately US$ 2 billion in 2008, with about 45 percent moving through mainstream supermarkets. The organics market had been showing significant growth (close to 15 percent) between the years 2006 – 2008, but this growth rate has slowed due to lower disposable incomes resulting from an economic slowdown. The main categories by organic food sales are: fresh vegetables at 25 percent of all organic food sales, beverages (excluding milk) 18 percent, fresh fruits 13 percent and dairy 11 percent. Raw meats represent about 3 percent of sales. At the sub-category level, the largest segments are: soy drinks, bagged salads, ready-to-eat cereals, refrigerated yogurt and bagged broad-leaf vegetables. The majority of Canadian produced organic products are exported as bulk grain and oilseed products. As a result, the Canadian market relies on U.S. organic food suppliers for the majority of fresh and processed organic foods. The proportion of Canadians who regularly purchase organic foods is steadily increasing and virtually every major supermarket chain offers organic produce and other prepackaged organic items. Several U.S.-based organic retailers have recently opened stores in Canada's largest cities, and a major U.S. mass-market retailer includes organic foods in each of its expanding network of super stores.

According to industry information, organic consumer products remain a growth area in Canadian retailing, growing at about 5 percent per year. Approximately 80 percent of Canada's organic consumer products are imported, with most coming from the United States. As a result, there are increased opportunities to market U.S. organic products to a wider demographic. On January 1, 2007, Canada became the first country in the world to introduce Harmonized Trade System codes to officially record imports of organic products. The goal is to eventually develop a full list of codes to track both Canadian import and export trade in all significant organic agricultural products. Given that Canada is heavily dependent on imports of organic products from the United States, the tracking of Canadian imports of organics is expected to provide, for the first time, an accurate measure of the importance of U.S. organic exports in the Canadian market. On June 17, 2009, Canada and the United States entered into an equivalency agreement on organics trade between the two countries. Overall, the U.S. organic industry remains well poised to capitalize on the increasing demand for organic consumer products in Canada.

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Red Meats

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

14,125

14,380

14,350

Total Local Production

16,375

16,500

16,475

Total Exports

4,175

4,600

4,650

Total Imports

1,925

2,480

2,525

Imports from the U.S.

1,595

2,075

2,100

Sources: Statistics Canada, Global Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

Canada is a major producer and exporter of red meat. Nevertheless, it is the third largest destination for U.S. exports with a market share of more than 15 percent. The North-American red meat market is heavily integrated, with trade flowing both ways between Canada and United States. Typically, Canada exports large numbers of live animals and significant amounts of meat to United States and imports a wide variety of meat products. After a number of years of decline, the red meat sector in Canada is finally expected to stabilize. Supply remains limited, while the market demand is gradually picking up resulting in increased wholesale and retail prices that translate in improved export opportunities for the American red meat industry.

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Processed Fruits and Vegetables

(in US$ millions)

2010

2011est

2012est

Total Market Size

6,935

6,970

7,075

Total Local Production

6,830

6,800

6,850

Total Exports

1,525

1,730

1,700

Total Imports

1,600

1,900

1,925

Imports from the U.S.

945

1,130

1,140

Sources: Statistics Canada, Global Trade Atlas, and unofficial estimates

The Canadian import market for processed fruits and vegetables is one of the fastest growing categories in the high value, consumer-oriented food product sector, absorbing one quarter of total U.S. exports in this category. Processed foods include frozen fruits and vegetables, sauces and condiments and tomato based sauces. Frozen fruit and vegetables are sold in a wide-range of product formats such as mixed frozen vegetables, ready-to-heat stir fries, and french fries. Frozen fruit and vegetables are being increasingly incorporated as ingredients by Canadian food manufacturers in ready-to-serve meals including TV dinners, pizza and other entrées. Consumer demand for convenient products, as well as smaller serving sizes, is driving the development of a wide range of ready-to-cook and -eat fruit and vegetable products that are benefitting U.S. sales.

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