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cover story


Road trips paying off


Blueberrymarkets show increasing international potential as efforts continue to expand export opportunities for B.C. product. By Grant Ullyot


T


he B.C. Blueberry Council,with the assistance of the federal government, annually visits a number of countries in


Europe and Asia to showcase the province’s high-quality blueberries and tell visitors all about its number one crop. Debbie Etsell, executive director of the B.C.


Blueberry Council, is the chief architect of these shows, designed to develop newmarkets in Germany, Japan, China, India, theUnited Arab Emirates, and domestically inmajor Canadian cities. “We attend one of the largest food shows in


theworld inGermany every other year. Germany is one of the economic drivers in the EU(EuropeanUnion), and our contacts in Germany also come fromthe Scandinavian countrieswhich have a strong interest in our dried blueberries and berries tomake yogurts. Certainly there is some blueberry production in the EUbut nothing to comparewithwhat is grown in B.C.” The Canadian government has targeted all


blueberries fromCanada could be exported tariff-free,” Etsell explained, “which is somethingwe have beenworking on for a long time andwe are excited about that happening. “Simply because of the size and importance of the


Europeanmarket it is going to take some time for it to happen. “We’re in the process of forging an agreement, and if you


take a look at Canada’s record negotiating in the past, this is a big success for us aswe haven’t been able to negotiate verymany ‘free-trade’ agreements. And I think the Canadian government could have taken the easyway out by just getting an agreement. So I don’t expect itwill be easy for them, becauseOttawa hasworked hard to get the ‘right’ kind of agreement in place” Some EUgovernments


that have been asked to approve the framework agreement have indicated they do not like it. Etsell thinks thatwill always be the case. “Where you have


European countries and is currentlyworking on establishing a free trade zonewith them. They have reached an agreement in principle, and nowit needs ratification by all 28 governments that formthe EUbefore it can be implemented, notes Etsell. The EUcountries formone of themajormarkets inwhich


Debbie Etsell, executive director of the B.C. Blueberry Council.


submitted an agreement for ratification, the


agreement, or some parts of the agreement,may be


unacceptable to them.” Etsellwent on to explainwhy there has been an emphasis


on foreignmarkets. “During the timewhen our currency had a higher value than the American dollar itwas difficult to ship our blueberries tomarkets in the States, sowe had to try and


British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2014-15 5


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