Export Opportunities

Opportunities exist for Alberta companies considering exporting their products abroad and for companies from around the world interested in investing in Alberta.

The agriculture and food industry in Alberta is export-oriented. Alberta is the third largest exporter of primary and processed agricultural and food products (agri-food) in Canada. In 2015, Alberta’s top export markets for agri-food products were the United States, China, Japan, Mexico and South Korea. Exports to these five countries were worth $7.5 billion, representing almost three-quarters of Alberta’s total agri-food exports.

The United States (US) continues to be Alberta's largest trading partner, accounting for 39.3 per cent of the total agri-food exports. In 2015, exports to this market were almost $4.0 billion. Exports to China, Alberta's second largest market in 2015, grew 19.5 per cent to $1.6 billion. Exports to Japan, Alberta's third largest market, fell for the third year in a row, down 8.1 per cent to $1.1 billion in 2015. Lower exports of canola seed, wheat, barley and beef, contributed to the decline. Exports to Mexico, Alberta's fourth largest market, rose 6.6 per cent to $572 million in 2015. Exports to South Korea, Alberta's fifth largest export market, grew by 2.1 per cent to $233 million in 2015.i

For Alberta companies, the benefits of exporting are many, including increased profits and sales, increased size and scope of their business and increased security as a result of spreading risks over a variety of markets.

For more information on how to export, visit Agriculture and Food – Export Basics

Key drivers of growth for the agri-food sector include:

  • Increased access to international markets through liberalization of trade agreements.
  • Growth in demand for consumer-oriented, value-added agri-food products.
  • Changes to the domestic regulatory framework in response to international market demands, such as age verification and traceability changes in the livestock sector, organic certification, etc.
  • Research and investment into the functional properties of foods that can fight or prevent disease.
  • Research and investment in the industrial sector, such as bio-lubricants, composite materials, and bio-fuels.

Global trends that will impact food exports include:

  • Rapid economic growth in populous countries such as China and India which is leading to increased demand for meat and dairy products and driving up overall grain prices. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be billions more mouths to feed, exacerbating the demand for food (from 7.3 billion people in 2015 to an estimated 9.9 billion in 2050.ii
  • Extreme weather, such as drought, floods, and cold snaps, are affecting harvests and food availability.
  • Water availability is a constraint in many parts of the world. Canada has one fifth of the world’s freshwater (7% of the world’s renewable freshwater) and according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development “water demand is projected to increase by 55% globally between 2000 and 2050. The increase in demand will come mainly from manufacturing (+400%), electricity (+140%) and domestic use (+130%). In the face of these competing demands, there will be little scope for increasing water for irrigation.iii
  • High rates of soil loss to erosion and desertification could diminish the capacity of some countries to produce enough food.
  • Food supply decreases as crops are shifted to the fuel market. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center projects that in 2016-17 that nearly 40% of the United States corn crop will go towards ethanol production.iv

Agriculture into the future

  • The changing global economy is creating many new opportunities for Alberta's agri-food industry. Trade agreements, modern technology, transportation, and sophisticated communications systems are resulting in greater international access to goods and services.
  • World trade in agricultural products is continuing to grow. Demand is shifting from bulk commodities to consumer ready foods with value-added products and niche markets anticipated to grow rapidly. Markets for new products including functional foods, food ingredients, and industrial and other non-food uses are also expected to grow.
  • With the rise in population and economic growth, the demand for safe and sustainable food and other agricultural products will increase. India and China are expected to remain among the world’s fastest growing economies with economic growth also anticipated in developing regions, such as Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and other countries in Asia.v

I Statistics Canada, Prepared by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Economics and Competitiveness Branch, June 28, 2016. http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/sdd16029
Sourced July 20, 2016.
ii United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Data Sheet 2015. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Datasheets/2011/world-population-data-sheet/data-sheet.aspx
Sourced on July 29, 2016.
iii Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequence of Inaction, 2012. http://www.oecd.org/env/indicators-modelling-outlooks/oecdenvironmentaloutlookto2050theconsequencesofinaction.htm
Sourced on July 29, 2016.
iv Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University, “Ethanol Usage Projections and Corn Balance Sheet,” December 21, 2015. https://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/crops/outlook/cornbalancesheet.pdf
Sourced on July 29, 2016.
v USDA long term projections, February 2015. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/1776001/oce151a.pdf.
Sourced on July 29, 2016.