Cigi visits Latin American countries on pulse and special crops missions

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Lindsay Bourré and Rick Morgan in Panama City

Lindsay Bourré and Rick Morgan in Panama City

Cigi’s pulse and special crops area has been on the road recently with a mission to Mexico and another to Panama, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic.

Peter Frohlich, Project Manager, Pulses and Special Crops, led the mission in mid-March to Mexico City along with three other Cigi technical staff and representatives from the Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission, Alberta Pulse Growers, and Ontario Bean Growers. The one-week mission aimed to investigate the potential use of pulses and flax as ingredients in food products as well as a possible increase in exports to Mexico.

“We wanted to know about the potential use of pulses and flax as ingredients in food products to add nutritional value,” says Peter, noting that Mexico uses mainly black beans, pinto beans, and some lentils and chickpeas. “When the other organizations joined us we added a focus on exports, how to increase them, what quality Mexico is looking for in beans and so on. They import from Canada, but not as much recently, and buy quite a bit from the U.S.”

He said that with help from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the group met with food processing companies and traders, and also checked out food products at markets including a wide selection of pasta, snacks, and breakfast cereals. The use of pulse flours as ingredients was new to the customers although they were familiar with Canadian products and Canada’s reputation for high quality.

Meetings with the companies and traders proved to be productive, Peter says. “We learned about the products they made and about some of the concerns they had. Mexico is following the same trends as in Canada and the U.S. about obesity, diabetes, and other health issues.

“There’s a definite desire to increase nutrition in Mexican processed food products. The main points of interest were how to increase protein and fibre levels in their products. There were numerous positive interactions and we are currently following up with a number of processors.”

In addition, the grower associations present on the mission were able to take away valuable information regarding quality and market access issues, he says.

Cigi in Panama, Guatemala and Dominican Republic
Lindsay Bourré, Cigi Technical Specialist in pulses, went on her first Cigi pulse investigative mission with Rick Morgan, Manager of Business Development, to Panama, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic, also in March at the request of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. In each country they gave presentations and met mainly with government representatives, port authorities, importers, and food companies. They were accompanied by four Canadian pulse and special crops industry representatives on the one-week visit.

Lindsay says that although she presented information on the nutritional value of adding pulses as ingredients to food products, there was also interest on pulse imports, pulse quality, and food safety.

“I’d say they aren’t at the ingredient level yet but there is potential, especially in Panama. There were fairly broad audiences and every country had questions about food safety procedures which is outside our area of expertise. Canada has a good reputation surrounding the safety and quality of our products but there is interest in the process and what is being done to ensure that. Future visits should include presenters from CFIA and the CGC to answer those questions.”

Panama imported 8,315 tonnes of pulses from Canada last year, supported by a free trade agreement, while similar agreements with the other two countries which imported significantly less (Dominican Republic imported 2,816 tonnes and Guatemala, 314 tonnes), are in the works. Guatemala is also focused on segments of their population just acquiring basic nutrition levels, Lindsay says.

Visits to customers were useful to Canadian exporters on the trip, resulting in potential sales. “They aren’t a big market but they are a market and they like and trust Canadian products. For now the lack of free trade agreements with Guatemala and Dominican Republic puts a limitation on imports there but that can change in the future.”

More about Cigi’s missions to various countries during the first quarter of 2014 will be featured in the next issue of our e-newsletter, Cigi.ca.  To subscribe please click here.