A fresh produce trade exhibit in Montreal

Have you ever heard of passion fruit, granadilla, pitahaya, tamarillo or gooseberries? If you’re like most Canadians, you’ve probably only heard of a few of these fruits as they’re typically foreign to Canadian consumers. However, as immigration to Canada increases, so does the demand for ethnic foods, which is why these goods have started to gain mainstream visibility in the Canadian market. To take advantage of these opportunities, the Commercial Office of the Government of Honduras and ProExport Colombia, in Montréal, worked in partnership to plan and create a one-day Fresh Produce Trade Exhibit with the assistance of TFO Canada Montréal Representative, Marc Germain. This event showcased a range of unique fruits available from either country for export to the Québec market, while also providing a place where developing country exporters and Canadian buyers could network. Although this event took place in April of this year, it was the by-product of informal lunch meetings that were organized by Mr. Germain, which began in 2010.

Mr. Germain used these lunches as a way to unite Montréal Trade Representatives from Honduras, Colombia, and Chile in an open, positive-space environment. Representatives were encouraged (and still are today) to network with one another and with key industry players from Montréal who attend as guest speakers. Wendy Rivera, the Honduran Commercial Counsellor in Montréal described the informal lunches as being, “the most productive meetings,” simply because they allow Trade Representatives to share opportunities and ideas, and to educate one another in a comfortable environment. At the lunches, TFO Canada’s Montréal Representative takes on a supportive role; encouraging the formation of new partnerships, introducing contacts and networks to one another, providing advice and suggestions, leading company tours and presenting seminars on the Québec market. Mr. Germain’s supportive role became really important throughout the planning and organizing phase of the Fresh Produce Trade Exhibit, as he encouraged the consulates to take control and manage their first trade show. This first-hand experience provided Trade Representatives with know-how and a network of connections that will be useful when creating trade shows down the road.

Not only did Trade Representatives learn how to plan and organize a trade show, but the monthly meetings also generated partnerships and opportunities that would not have happened otherwise. Specifically, for Honduras, Mrs. Rivera claims that the trade show, a direct result of the monthly lunches, has increased the visibility of Honduras’s exotic fruits. It has enabled Honduran exporters to connect with Canadian importers and negotiate agreements. As this is the first project Honduras has undertaken in the fresh produce sector since the negotiation of the Canada-Honduras Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2011, this initiative was essential for providing a “more visible image of Honduras’s industry”.