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September 27, 2023

A new test of how geopolitics affects food exports is upon us. Growers need to know what’s in the air; in an era of geopolitics and climate change, trade flows can change in an instant and affect markets.


For example, in mid-September, Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said links had been found between India’s government and the assassination in Canada of a Sikh activist.


Everyone was taken back, even the New York Times, calling it a “rare and explosive allegation” by a country’s leader in a breaking-news alert.


You’d expect some kind of trade fall-out to result from that dust up...which would be unfortunate, particularly for apple growers hoping for greater access to India’s huge consumer market. They saw a warming trade relationship between the U.S .and India for apple exports, based on India rescinding a 20 per cent tariff on U.S. apples, and thought it might have a ripple effect on Canada.


Maybe it still will. India just hosted the G20 summit, in which Canada took part.


But as recent history has shown, sabre-rattling among export partners is rampant.


Look at the U.S. and China. Politically, they despise each other. However, behind the scenes, China continues buying boatloads of U.S. grain and oilseeds. The USDA says private exporters are reporting sales of 123,000 metric tons of soybeans for delivery to China during the 2023/2024 marketing year.


 Coming the other way, Chinese cargo ships bound for the U.S. are piled mile-high with containers of consumer goods, especially appliances and TVs. In this case, politics gives way to trade.


And that’s only the start of it.


The U.S. is also trying to find sources of manufacturing other than China. So, it’s looking at more trade with Vietnam. But Vietnam, fearing China’s growing aggression, is trying to bolster its coffers by selling arms to Russia. That’s ironic,  because Russia claims China is a good friend.


And didn’t Vietnam sign new protocols with China just last year for increased fruit and vegetable exports? (Yes it did! And considering how much money the U.S. has dedicated to helping Ukraine battle Russia, isn’t it odd that the U.S. would pursue trade with an arms source for Russia? 


Then there’s U.S. and Canada trade relations with Mexico. Canada has joined the U.S. in trying to stop Mexico from banning U.S .corn exports for human consumption. All three countries’ parties are gearing up to square off under the free trade agreement. Yet while politicians and diplomats accuse each other of wrongdoings, boatloads of U.S. grain continue to arrive in Mexican ports, while fruit, vegetables and tequila come the other way.


At this time of year, our attention often turns to apples, a world commodity. A new report from USApple, a commodity organization, suggests American apples are likely to have a big presence in Canada this year. Although global apple production is predicted to be down five percent, the USDA estimates American apple production for the 2023-24 crop year will be 250 million bushels, a 1.5 per cent increase from last year.









Production involving our largest trading partner is always worth noting. U.S. apples will have a farm-gate value of almost $3 billion this crop year, generated primarily from fresh apple production. Washington will remain the nation’s top producer with an estimated crop of 160 million bushels valued at more than $2 billion, a nine per cent increase over the previous year.


Michigan is expected to hold on to its No. 2 spot, despite a late frost that extended through the east and Midwest and dropped production in the water-winter wonderland state by more than 15 per cent, to 27.4 million bushels.


By comparison, Canadian apple production is forecast to fall more than five per cent (one million bushels), to 18.7 million bushels. The USApple report says Ontario, the nation’s largest apple-growing province, is expected to decrease year-over-year production by 731,000 bushels or around eight per cent. British Columbia, on the other hand, is expected to increase production year over year by almost 18 per cent, or around 567,000 bushels.


Specific production figures aside though, for this country – and any country, really -- domestic fruit and vegetable production is vital. Whichever way the wind blows, retailers and consumers will continue to value local production as insurance against trade vagaries and political whims.


And as the headlines show, those are not in short supply.



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Submitted by Owen Roberts on 27 September 2023