A small group of Chinese delegates toured the Alberta Food Processing Development Centre in Leduc on July 28 as an early step in developing a relationship between the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China, the processing centre, as well as the city and county of Leduc and area.
According to a City of Leduc media release the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China is a major transportation hub serving the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.
The Alberta Food Processing Development Centre is Canada’s largest agri-foods processing centre and business incubator. “As a result, Alberta is well-positioned to increase its market share of export agri-based products to China,” states the release.
“One of the things that we’re looking at is attracting investors from the outside, and China is one of the world’s largest areas of greatest demands for food products,” explained Luke Pantin, economic development manager with the City of Leduc.
“There has been open manifestation on both sides of the table,” he added.
Pantin says Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region wants to build business ties with Leduc and the Alberta Food Processing Development Centre to channel investors. “They see great opportunity in the fact that this food processing centre has one of the highest standards in the world.”
The Alberta Food Processing Development Centre is one of the top in the word and boasts eight incubator suits companies can rent to produce their products until they are strong enough to operate at an independent location.
Alberta Food Processing Development Centre executive director Ken Gossen says this affords incoming businesses a fairly low-risk way to get into food production in Alberta.
“Always we’re trying to strengthen our relationship with China,” said Gossen. “They’re already a good partner and we’d like to advance that.”
Gossen says, for the Alberta Food Processing Development Centre and Leduc, two of the main goals in developing this relationship are trade and investment. “We need to export, so we need to make sure we have a diverse export market.”
The Alberta Food Processing Development Centre has partnered with Chinese provinces in the past and Gossen knows there is a market to export items such as peas, wheat, barley, lentils, canola oil, beef and pork to the country.
He believes developing a relationship with Guangxi Zhuang will also help break down existing trade barriers.
“I think, moving forward, I hope we’re going to see a lot of positive inquiries coming from China, especially from the Guangxi region,” said Pantin.
Also in attendance for the tour was Leduc mayor Greg Krischke and Leduc-Beaumont MLA Shaye Anderson.
“I truly would like to work with your region to bring closer ties,” said Krischke.
During a table discussion following the tour one of the Chinese delegates mentioned developing an education type program with the Alberta Food Processing Development Centre, allowing Chinese to come over and learn food production at the centre before taking their knowledge back to Guangxi Zhuang. “Of course we will encourage our companies and businesses to come here.”
Pantin says a number of years ago the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region developed an education exchange program with Lethbridge College. “They’re meeting with the Government of Alberta’s, I think, Ministry of Advanced Education to explore new opportunities to build ties.”
“We as well, as a community and as a City of Leduc and as the region itself, we’re looking at discussions with other post-secondary educational institutions here in Alberta to strengthen what we’re doing here,” he added.
Pantin says developing the relationship with the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region will be a win-win for both parties on many levels besides food production.