A trade mission which included about half a dozen P.E.I. companies has just returned from the United Arab Emirates — a joint venture involving Innovation P.E.I and the federal Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).
"We think it went extremely well" said Patti-Sue Lee, director of international business development with ACOA in P.E.I. "It was the first time into this market — the U.A.E. market — for Prince Edward Island."
Lee said traditionally the U.S. market has been P.E.I.'s largest and longstanding trading partner, but its looking for new opportunities as part of a growth strategy.
She said the U.A.E. has been identified as a market of interest for a number of years.
"We had a good level of interest from our companies, and different sectors, it just seemed to be the right time," she said.
Dubai is a major shipping hub to India and China, explained Lee.
"It's a major hub for distribution to the far east," she said.
International food and hospitality show reason for trip
The trade mission was focused around the Golfood show, which Lee described as the world's largest food and hospitality show.
There were more than 5,000 exhibitors and 120 companies participating, so it was a chance for P.E.I to showcase some of its products.
Companies that went from P.E.I were agriculture and seafood based as well as a couple of construction related businesses.
Valerie and Alex Docherty of Skye View Farms Ltd. went over to market their potatoes to the hotel restaurant trade and retail market. They had gone on their own in 2016 to explore markets as well, but they looked at the trade mission as another opportunity to find potential buyers.
"We're keeping our fingers crossed," said Valerie Docherty.
The couple haven't sold any potatoes yet, but they are hopeful. One of the biggest challenge is eating habits of the local population.
"As much as we believe we can sell them a much better quality product for a very reasonable rate … a high percentage of the population are not known for eating potatoes," said Docherty.
Some orders signed
The P.E.I. companies met one on one with various buyers and participated in a special taste of Canada event.
"There were P.E.I. oysters and P.E.I. cheese, P.E.I. lobster, as well as other products from Canada," said Lee.
Local companies had expressed interest in getting into that market, explained Lee, adding some orders were signed as a result of the trip.
"I do expect that companies will walk away with something signed in their back pocket as a result of this," she said.
The companies which went on the trade mission will get together soon to go over details of the trip.
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