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Grow locally, think globally

Don’t count toomuch on exporting to Chinese market, Hughes advises. By Grant Ullyot


ood marketing expert David Hughes cautions producers not to put all their export eggs in one (Chinese) basket.

“By that I mean don’t look only at China as your biggest potential export market. If you do, be prepared to deal with the political problems that can crop up without notice in the ups and downs of China’s economy,” Hughes told an audience at this year’s Horticulture Growers Short Course, an integral part of the annual Pacific Agriculture Show.

“Last year, half of the total global economic growth was accounted for by China,” he said. “What would happen if it stopped growing? We’d be buggered, that’s what.” Hughes, an emeritus professor at Imperial College in London, England, was the keynote speaker at this year’s short course. He travels the world to talk to industry and business audiences, governments and conferences about global developments in the food industry. He advocates building strong vertical alliances between key members in the worldwide food production chain. “Periodically, China will be hit by a mini recession and that will create huge problems for us in the short term because if income growth collapses quickly in China then imports will also be cut very quickly.” Hughes noted that the blueberry industry in B.C. is looking forward to China opening its market to fresh blueberry imports, perhaps as early as this year. He also noted that Canada has developed an aggressive marketing strategy to develop free trade agreements which, while

beneficial, also have a downside.

However, he went on to say that the federal government has

accelerated its efforts to develop free trade and other export-import agreements with as many countries as it can in the wake of the virtual collapse of the World Trade Agreement process. Hughes said he was surprised to learn that Canada was not only an exporter but also equally as big an importer, its biggest customer being the United States. Hughes addressed cranberry growers in his presentation, saying he was intrigued with Ocean Spray Inc., the marketing and production arm for the B.C. cranberry industry. “Their marketing claims are accepted by consumers without question. In the UK every house with a 1 in its address will have cranberry juice in their fridge. It just happens. People have confidence in the product and accept it.”


Dr. David Hughes, emeritus professor st Imperial College in London, was keynote speaker at this year’s Horticulture Growers Short Course.

people today no longer take the time to prepare a delicious meal. It’s all about convenience.

“We buy prepared meals or fast foods, or go out to eat. Anything but cook over a hot stove to prepare a delicious meal.

Hughes then tackled the Canadian claim that half of what we eat should be fruit and vegetables, and of course we all know that — but we still don’t do it. Although consumers know what they need to eat to stay healthy, they are reluctant to do it and in some countries the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is declining.

In Portugal and many other countries you no longer eat a strawberry, you drink it. Same for a pear. Their stores feature reminders to drink, not eat, more fruits and vegetables. Smoothies have become very popular.

Hughes explained that a lot of

“I live in a small town in England and every Friday I go to the local supermarket and buy a chicken, some Mediterranean salad, a nice dessert and a bottle of red wine for about $18 Canadian. It’s a good deal.” While the price consumers pay for their food has been the benchmark for several years, the trend is changing, and today shoppers are much more concerned about where their food comes from.

Hughes said he has discovered in his travels that it is an issue in countries everywhere.

“It’s about heritage and I think that is important for everybody.” The green bar, he noted is going up. Consumers are asking for more information from their food

British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2015 13

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