Despite challenges in recent years, Farmfair International is on deck to have one of its biggest shows in 2017, with 100 international buyers from 14 markets lined up.
One of Alberta’s longest-running agricultural trade shows, the Nov. 8-12 event at the Edmonton Expo Centre will, for this year at least, again run concurrently with the Canadian Finals Rodeo. This year, the event is also partnering with Agri-Trade (which runs Nov. 8-11) to collaborate on ticketing, promotion, and international programs to encourage both foreigns buyers and regional partners to attend two events.
“We have collaborated in the past but this is to a larger extent and formalized with the MOU (memorandum of understanding),” said Stacy Felkar, international marketing manager, agriculture with Northlands, which operates the Expo Centre.
Although the Northlands Coliseum, the longtime home of the rodeo, is set to close Dec. 31, organizers say they are concentrating on presenting the best show possible this year.
“At the moment what we are focusing on is providing our 2017 CFR and Farmfair events to the highest degree as we continue to work with the City of Edmonton on the transitions that are coming our way,” said Caiti Farquharson, public relations specialist with Northlands.
Northlands signed a one-year deal with the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association for this year with an opportunity to extend the deal into 2018, although it’s hard to say at this point where the rodeo will be located next year.
“We do not currently have a venue through which we can deliver the 2018 edition of the CFR,” said Farquharson.
Farmfair’s Inbound Buyers Program features two new markets this year: South Africa and Uzbekistan.
“We have ambassadors who work around the world promoting Farmfair International,” said Felkar. “One of those ambassadors has a strong connection to South Africa, which has led to development in that area. Uzbekistan is coming largely because of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry’s international team, which has been doing a lot of missions and legwork in those regions.”
There has also been a significant surge in Brazilian and Australian buyers, partly due to Canada’s growing reputation as a source for top-quality genetics, said Felkar.
“Last year we had about three Brazilian buyers,” she said. “This year we’re expecting about 15 to 20 from two different states in Brazil. It’s interesting to see that big change in interest. Most times there are political, economic as well as environmental factors that impact buyers and their ability to come.”
There has also been “a large surge in interest from Australia.”
“In particular they have a strong interest in bringing Canadian genetics into their own herds,” she said. “One of the breeds they’re interested in is Red Angus.”
Farmfair’s partnership with Agri-Trade will enhance the Inbound Buyer Program, she added.
“We’re actually going to start out our international program in Red Deer on Nov. 7 where we’ll have an ‘Exporting 101’ session for all of our buyers,” she said.
“It will show them the how-tos and what’s new in the world of genetics and exporting. We have someone representing the semen side, embryo side, and live cattle export side with our partners. And then we’re doing a private tour of Agri-Trade and attending an event there before we go back up to Edmonton for more cattle-focused activities.”
Canada well respected
PJ Budler, the Farmfair ambassador who got South Africa on board for the show’s buyers’ program, said there are diverse interests among the new delegates.
“One of them is an Angus and Red Angus breeder,” said Budler. “There’s also a president of a semen company. The other guy is involved in several different breeds.
“And then there’s a journalist from the biggest agricultural magazine in Africa coming out. It covers all livestock: dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, goats, and wildlife, so he’d be an interesting one to send a message out about Farmfair — not just to South Africa but to all of Africa.”
Budler, who is based in Texas, runs a genetics and consulting business called TheCattleMarket.net. His travels, including judging cattle in several countries, has given him contacts all over the globe and a sense of which markets are most compatible. The South African and Canadian cattle sectors, for example, share a preference for moderation, he said.
“The Canadian market suits the South African market very well for a number of reasons,” he said. “The first is that South African cattle breeders are very cautious. They don’t chase single traits and don’t run towards extremes. They try to keep it as real and practical as much as they possibly can. Canadians are similar.
“The U.S. markets, on the other hand, can be a little destructive in some ways because they’re always looking for new ways to do things and sometimes they chase things a little hard and a little fast because they have the ability to turn it around quicker than their clients do. Because of that a lot of countries are left stranded — they follow the marketing and propaganda that’s given to them by the U.S. so by the time they realize it doesn’t work, the U.S. is already on to something else.”
Overall, the Canadian beef industry is well respected throughout the world, said Budler, adding the growing interest in Farmfair bears that out.
“Cattle from over 70 countries have been represented in our annual ‘Champion of the World’ competition,” he said. “At least a third of those world champions among those 14 breeds have been Canadian.
“Canada’s cattle population is not huge — it’s just good. Size-wise it’s on a similar par to Uruguay, Paraguay, South Africa and Texas but Canada’s impact on the world in terms of genetics and genetic improvements has been massive. They’re punching way above their weight.”