Ontario ginseng eyes growth in Asia
Cambridge MP Brian May announces more than $420,000 in federal government funding to help the Ontario Ginseng Growers Association increase the market for their products. (Brian Thompson/The Expositor)
SCOTLAND -- The Ontario Ginseng Growers Association is getting a $420,000 federal grant to develop a strategy to promote new markets at home and around the world for Canadian ginseng.
"Demand for Canadian ginseng is on the rise throughout Asia, with growing interest in India and Japan in our high-quality product," Cambridge MP Bryan May said Tuesday morning as he stood in the store of Great Mountain Ginseng on Windham Road 3, south of Scotland, to announce the grant on behalf of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
"And market opportunities are set to grow even further as science pursues the amazing health benefits of ginseng."
May said the minister couldn't attend Tuesday's announcement because he is in China working to gain more access for Canadian agricultural goods, such as ginseng.
The grant will be used to help promote and increase the visibility and demand for Canadian ginseng in current and emerging markets, such as Asia, said May, noting that the emphasis will be on social media and marketing campaign that increase awareness of the innovative uses for Canadian ginseng in products such as soups, teas and cosmetics.
The grant also will be used to promote ginseng through trade shows in Asian markets. There are also plans for media missions locally and abroad.
May lauded the association for putting Ontario on the map as the world's largest producer of North American ginseng.
"Farmers have made ginseng a great success story for this beautiful area," he said.
"Ginseng is not an easy crop for farmers. It requires a lot of attention and a lot of patience, but the rewards can be huge. And as much as ginseng is a tricky crop to grow, the sandy soils of this area are ideal for this native species."
On international markets, ginseng leads the nation with the highest exports for a field-grown horticultural crop, he noted. Gate receipts exceeded $239 million last year.
"Those numbers are amazing," May said. "Our government wants to keep working with you for even better results this year."
The money will help the association's 220 growers in Brant, Norfolk, Oxford and Elgin counties to expand into India, Japan and Vietnam, where interest in Canadian ginseng is growing
"And market opportunities are set to grow even further as science pursues the amazing health benefits of ginseng," May said.
"The AgriMarketing program has transformed the ginseng industry in Ontario from an unknown entity to a global player," association chairman Remi Van De Slyke said as he expressed gratitude for the grant.
Earlier support helped the association move deeper into Chinese markets, beyond Hong Kong, he said. The association has mounted food shows and trade missions in Vietnam and India, and wants to do more.
"We're living proof that programs like this work," Van De Slyke said.
The association also wants to concentrate more on the Canadian market, he said in an interview.
"It's one that is often overlooked."
Shelling Yeh, general manager of Great Mountain Ginseng Co. Ltd., said he believes that using social media and trade shows in marketing campaigns is the right approach.
"For us, it helps build the image of ginseng in general," he said. "It is an Ontario and local product that can get more sales."
Yeh noted that a lot of people think ginseng comes from China.
"They don't know that we make the world's best ginseng, and we grow the most."
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