Supply Chain Challenges and Best Practices from Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Department of Fisheries & Aquaculture to ASEAN countries

In the first part of Export Opportunity Series to ASEAN * countries for agricultural and seafood products, we’ve reviewed market size, increasing demand for high-quality imported products as well as free trade agreements eliminating tax barriers and promoting trading activities between Canada and this region. However, the trade value among those markets with Canadian agri-food exporters has been quite small versus the market size. This is because of not only inadequate market information and industry relationship but also supply chain challenges to keep premium quality of fresh foods.


This week, we have the great honour to interview The Honourable Keith Colwell, Nova Scotia’s Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to learn more about the Province’s best practices to export agri-food products to ASEAN market as well as strategic plans to promote trading among those markets. Minister Keith Colwell visited Vietnam twice and other ASEAN countries on his trade missions and was impressed with the people and dynamic markets here.

With an intensive background in agriculture, aquaculture and fishing industry, Minister Keith Colwell and his department provide support and promotion of Nova Scotian agri-food and seafood business and believe in the prosperous future of these sectors attributing to the sustainable economic development of Nova Scotia.

Warehouse Transport Group would like to express sincere appreciation to Minister Keith Colwell’s participation to WTG’s Blog Series: Export Opportunities to ASEAN region, dedicating Canadian agri-food exporters and producers. Here are our questions for the Minister and the Minister’s sharing and insight about this region.

1) WTG: What is the best practice of Nova Scotian agricultural exports including agri-foods and seafood to ASEAN countries in the past five years, especially SEA markets?

Minister Keith Colwell: Nova Scotia is a successful exporter around the globe as we sell our products to over 70 counties and regions including Europe, the USA and Asia. Our Nova Scotia seafood exports are continuing to reach new heights. In 2019, over $2.3 billion was exported from Nova Scotia to markets around the world, making us Canada’s number one exporter of seafood for the fifth year in a row. Nova Scotia also exported over $349 million in agri-food and beverage products including our award-winning wines, wild blueberries, cranberries and apples. This level of success illustrates the positive global reputation that our premium quality products have developed.

Our work in Asia to date has been mainly focused on China however we started to explore opportunities in Singapore and Vietnam last year, prior to covid-19, and we had the pleasure of visiting both countries promoting trade opportunities with Nova Scotia companies.

Our department works closely with our colleagues at the Canadian Embassies and Consulates and several in-market partners to profile our products and educate buyers and consumers. We employ many strategic approaches to enhance our success, but every market requires different approaches. These approaches may include:

  • Trade shows
  • Incoming and outgoing missions
  • E-commerce, retail and food service promotions
  • Culinary demonstrations
  • Business to business export cafés and product showcases
  • In-market pilot projects with new exporters to introduce them to the market

2) WTG: What are the factors driving Nova Scotian agricultural and seafood exporters to invest and develop these markets?

Minister Keith Colwell: Nova Scotia is always looking to expand and diversify its markets and seek new growth opportunities and incremental gains. The Nova Scotia agri-food and seafood sectors have not pursued these areas in a strategic fashion in the past, but we believe there are new opportunities opening up, especially in some countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) where a free trade agreement is in place with Canada which reduces tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

3) WTG: What are the difficulties or barriers to NS agricultural and seafood exports to those regions?

Minister Keith Colwell: These are newer markets for many Nova Scotia companies and one of the main barriers may be the lack of market information and familiarity with the region. Prior to entering a new export market, companies will need to take an in-depth look at the market to better understand potential opportunities and challenges. For example, market research will be required to understand the following:

  • Tariffs and non-tariff barriers
  • Market size
  • Demographics
  • Pricing structures
  • Logistics including cold chains
  • Key players in retail, food service, importers
  • Culture
  • Competition
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Consumer trends

4) WTG: What is the strategic plan to deal with these difficulties or barriers and accelerate NS agricultural and seafood exports in the next five years?

Minister Keith Colwell: As indicated, we have not pursued these markets in a targeted way in the past, however, we have started to take a closer look at a couple of ASEAN countries, namely Singapore and Vietnam as a result of the ratification of the free trade agreement under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with these two countries. CCTP will provide enhanced access for Nova Scotia companies to these key markets, with tariffs being eventually eliminated or reduced, depending on the product.

During our visit to Singapore and our second visit to Vietnam last year, we had the opportunity to learn more about the market, connect with industry and start building relationships. We hope to include these countries as a part of our strategic plan as we look toward the future. But first, we need to do additional research.

5) WTG: Is there any supply chain challenge for agriculture and seafood exports to new markets such as transit time, preservation for live products or fresh fruits, etc? How could these exporters tackle the challenge?

Minister Keith Colwell: Understanding supply chain capacity, timelines, and structure is essential as most of Nova Scotia’s exported products require controlled temperatures (both chilled and freezing) and controlled atmosphere; along with specified shipping times to ensure premium quality is maintained for products such as apples, frozen wild blueberries, frozen seafood and live lobster. Nova Scotia prides itself on high quality products so supply chain standards are a requirement. The challenge is tackled through:

  • Research to understand the supply chain
  • Identifying and working with reputable shippers, distributors, importers, wholesalers and retailers
  • Ensuring consumers are made aware of product handling, storage and preparation

(*Note: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional grouping that promotes economic, political, and security cooperation among its ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. SEA refers to South East Asia).

From December 10th to 11th, Warehouse Transport Group is very pleased to join the Virtual Food Trade Show hosted by Ministry of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, organized by Viet Nam Trade Promotion with support from the Canadian General Consulate in Vietnam as well as Trade Commissioners from Canadian Global Affairs. We hope to help to accelerate trading activities between Canada and Vietnam, dedicating to the food industry.

We are here to help, please do not hesitate to contact us any time for supply chain requirements to ASEAN regions and Vietnam as well:

Your trusted partners

Warehouse Transport Group