Alberta expanding global network of agricultural officers to boost trade

The Alberta government is sending agricultural reps to more global offices to help expand the province’s sales reach.

Province eyes Mexico, Singapore and Europe for more food exports

Canola is one of several Prairie crops having a banner year in 2020, particularly in southern and central Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Alberta government is sending agricultural officers to more global offices to help expand the province's market reach.

Premier Jason Kenney and Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen said on Wednesday the government will send agriculture representatives to the province's trade offices in the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Singapore.

Agricultural representatives also work abroad in provincial offices in Beijing, Seoul, Tokyo and New Dehli, Kenney said.

"As we continue to grow more crops, get better yields at good prices, we have to ensure that global markets are there for our farmers to sell to," Kenney said.

The investment is part of the government's strategy to aggressively increase agri-food exports to $16.6 billion per year by 2023, Kenney said. If achieved, that would be a 43-per-cent increase from 2018 exports of $11.6 billion, he said.

Improvements in technology, crop science, irrigation techniques and fertilizer should create higher yields for Alberta farmers, he said.

Kenney said Alberta was on track for a record-breaking year in agriculture — a much-needed bright light in an otherwise gloomy economy. Reports point to unprecedented bumper crops in grain, oilseeds and pulses, and high canola and wheat prices will be a boon to farmers, the premier said.

"Yes 2020 is a tough year, but there are some real signs and reasons for hope and optimism, and at the centre of that is Alberta agriculture," Kenney said.

Crops are estimated to be worth $26.8 billion this year, Dreeshen said, up 11 per cent from last year and substantially higher than normal. Yields are particularly high in southern and central Alberta.

Dreeshen acknowledged the glee isn't universal as some farmers in northern Alberta struggled with challenging conditions and lower yields.

According to the Sept. 22 provincial crop report, nearly half of Alberta's crops had been harvested by that date.

In 2019, agriculture accounted for about $9.2 billion of Alberta's real gross domestic product.