Friday, October 26, 2012

Rob Smith, David Bolduc and Gary Latimer visit Russia

Oct. 17: Somehow I skipped this picture from last Friday's trip to the Golden Autumn exhibition in Moscow. This was in the Oblast (i.e. state, region or province) pavilion with some traditionally dressed ladies. I love how CAA President Gary Latimer's friends are focused on the picture along with him... while CBBC Vice Chair David Bolduc's friends are more focused... on him!!!
 Oct. 14: Here is our report for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, having transferred now from Moscow to Orenburg!

Friday started with a walking tour of some of the most important historical sites in the world which I pictured and posted as “Status Updates” on here yesterday morning, or Friday night for you. I won’t write anymore here because, really, there is not much more to say about those sites. I would l

ove to have actually toured these buildings, including visits to the Bolshoi Theatre and Gorky Park, but time did not permit for such and that isn’t the reason why we’re here anyway. I will say that the Lotte Hotel is an incredible location and if you have opportunity to stay here, you owe it to yourself to do so. Hopefully you will be able to attend to some official business because, in the absence of the Embassy Rate, it would be very expensive to do so but it is an incredibly comfortable hotel with the most extraordinary customer service I’ve EVER encountered, and that includes a pretty incredible hotel in Buenos Aires last year for the World Angus Secretariat meeting.
Canadian Angus Association

Anyway… onto Golden Autumn!

First off, the Exhibition facility is incredible! It would cover more than 200 acres (we did A LOT of walking!) and includes all sorts of buildings, pavilions and halls. The Golden Autumn was essentially located in four halls, each focusing on something kind of different. The first two halls included the value-added and primary food production entities, including the ‘oblast’ (region / province / state) displays. In many of these, such senior government officials as their Minister of Agriculture and/or Trade were present so we were able to connect with them. If you want to do business in this part of the world, you MUST establish a relationship and credibility with the local government; they are of critical importance to success in either straight up sales or joint venture partnerships. I have determined a strategy for pushing harder on the Russian market for next year which will involve engaging the Oblast Administration next spring and setting up meetings with them through the year for our local Trade Officer and then with our CAA delegation during Golden Autumn next year. Anyway, we made contact with a number of these Oblasts and feel confident that more administrations are talking about livestock production in general, beef production in particular and, specifically, the benefit of the balanced Angus breed that gives you the best possible balance in primary production coupled with the most efficient feeding animal leading to the highest quality carcass with the most premium product in the end.

We ventured on to the livestock pavilion and checked out the animals on display, a rather sorry group by our standards, but one of the important requirements of inspecting cattle in Russia and this part of the world is NOT to look at them as we’d look at them at home. The genetics and nutrition and slaughter expectations are so totally and completely different that we must… I mean MUST… temper our expectations and modify our eye accordingly. Maybe after 10 years of intensive management training and advanced genetic infiltration as could reasonably think that the ‘lens’ in which we view these cattle could be parallel. For the time being, however, we must expect: 1) smaller frames, 2) less flesh, 3) questionable soundness; and 3) later maturity.

We made contact with some of the importers NOT from Canada which was productive, and met with the leading national livestock news publication that prints their magazine 8 times each year (plus one bonus issue) and has been around since 1956. We will likely start advertising in this publication which his distributed to the leading managers / decision-makers of the nation’s oblast administrations.

We spent quite a few hours at the Golden Autumn and realized we needed more, so want to focus on this for an entire day next year or the better part of two days. This is a ‘captive audience’ that we needed to engage better but to ‘cold call’ them was not as productive and positive as had we lined up to meet with them prior to showing up at their booth. Next year, I will be MUCH better prepared. As it was, we believe we made effective contact but a significant part of this journey is learning about the market, their culture, their wants and their needs and their current degree of commitment to purchasing / importing Canadian genetics. Our next phase of involvement will be about doing all this even better and we are feeling more and more confident about how we market to Russia.

Bagdad (you really need to meet this man! I think Gary and David have enjoyed his perspective and logistical and language support. I am most thankful to have him on our team. Just so you know, Bagdad and I worked together for the duration of my five years in Kazakhstan, he as my Senior Advisor. As helpful as he’s been in Russia, he will be a real ‘linchpin’… and even a ‘driver’… in Kazakhstan), Gary, David and I found a little Georgian restaurant at which to dine on Friday night and we enjoyed beef, pork and salmon from the menu. We had walked likely 10 miles that day (I kid you not!) and were weary and ready to retire but found the ‘gumption’ to meet with two great friends off the Angus breed, and significant Angus promoters, Dr. Roger Davis (DRI) and Kate Kolstad (Alta Exports International). We strategized and planned with these two global beef genetics marketing giants until the wee hours…
Saturday started off with meeting two companies involved in many, varied business interests, including feeding and slaughtering beef cattle with the intention of capitalizing on a ‘high-end’ market. Of course, we think they should be slaughtering Angus cattle and, given their desire to import feeder calves until they grow their herd and contract with producers for Russian Angus, and those Angus should be Canadian Angus Rancher Endorsed. I feel strongly that these folks will start importing calves next winter or spring with the objective of slaughtering 250 head/week by next fall or winter, at the latest. And, unlike anyone else in Russia at this time, they will be importing Canadian feeder cattle that will go out on grass and be slaughtered as ‘grass-fed’ beef or put into the feedlot in fall / winter months as short keep feeders. Tony Saretsky of Cantriex Livestock will be most likely working with these folks so remember to tag your calves with the green Angus tag and they might just be heading to the Russian meat market!

I have been rather inundated with requests for meetings for our sojourn into Kazakhstan that starts on Wednesday of this week, so both Gary and David and extended their time on this Trade Mission by a week to be a full and active part of the Kazakhstan focus (I hope, as do Gary and David, that Jacci and Margaret... not to mention Richard and Mat... approve!!!). The Alberta provincial government has set up a great opportunity for engagement and interaction with the northern Kazakhstan beef production marketplace and I think we need the full “four” of us so they’ve consented to remain past the federal Russian mission. I am most thankful for this development. As you see your ‘friendly neighborhood CAA Board of Directors’ this fall, please take the time to thank them for all that they do because this current Board really works hard on your behalf to both represent you AND create opportunities that enhance and increase your membership value.
Today we have travelled to Orenburg where we will spend the next two days. Orenburg is a highly productive oblast that is south and east of Moscow, almost on the border with Kazakhstan. While here we will be part of the official opening of the Canada - Russian Livestock Consulting Centre and participating in the 2nd Annual Livestock Forum. The Akim (Governor / Premier) of the Orenburg Oblast will be participating and the acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the federal government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fred Gorrell, is representing Hon. Minister Gerry Ritz who had to postpone his mission to Russia / Kazakhstan due to the XL issues back at home. This will be a humbling experience for us as the Angus delegation because the Canadian Hereford Association has been very, very prominent here in the past two years and we will take a real proverbial ‘backseat’ to them during this leg of our mission. Do not lose faith, however, CAA fans and members because I GUARANTEE you that this will be the ONLY time such is the case. We are ‘on the ball’, making relationships and spreading the Canadian Angus ‘gospel’ and, I feel confident, making progress. The next time there is a general trade mission to this part of Russia, the primary focus WILL be Angus. Our product is just too good to be denied.

That is all for now. I’m not sure when the next post will be because our access to WiFi is weak in Orenburg, even if our ability to access the 3G network for our ‘smart’ phones is actually better than it was in Moscow! Until the next time, let’s throw our glasses (whatever they are holding” up in toast to “zzz-da-rovya”, the phonetic expression of “to the health”. Given the success of Angus sales in Canada this week, we certainly don’t need to drink to luck, so let’s just drink to “the health”… of each other, of our neighbor, of our competitor, of XL, of our industry on the whole. In the Russian short form for ‘goodbye’, or ‘so long’, please let me say ‘pa-ka’…

Oct. 14: The three spring-born Stevenson-Sputnik bull calves on display, including stall cards and their brochure tacked to the panel.
 Oct. 14: And, finally, in the Livestock pavilion, the Stevenson Sputnik display, along with one Galloway, some Hereford, Kazakh White Head, Simmental and Kalmyk beef breeds not to mention dairy cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, chinchillas.
 Oct. 14: Another impressive, powerful display pavilion.
 Oct. 14: The beautiful "Fountain of Friendship", representing each of the individual Republics that comprised the Soviet Union, from afar...
 Oct. 14: The Pavilion of the Common People at the Exhibition Centre.
 Oct. 13: The entry sign to Golden Autumn, the largest agriculture, food processing and livestock exhibition in Russia. This exhibition facility is amazing, with over 80 exhibit halls or pavilions. I think this place is big enough to house the World's Fair!
 Oct. 12: A final shot of the Metro station adjacent to Lenin's Tomb on our way back to the 'old' Arbat metro station. More than 1 million people each day use Moscow's public metro system. The current price is 28 rubles, which is less than $1. Most of these stations are beautifully constructed, some ornately finished, and ALL of them exceptionally, freakishly clean. Next... onto the Golden Harvest exhibition...
 Oct. 12: Finally, to leave Red Square, we passed through the Iberian (or Resurrection) Gate, originally constructed in 1535 but demolished in 1931 to make a wide enough opening to bring heave military vehicles into Red Square for celebratory purposes. This was rebuilt recently, from 1994-96. I included this picture to illustrate the irony if my perception growing up of the Soviet's as 'godless' people. Sting even sang about this in his song "Russians" from 1985. Man... was I misled, and was our western beliefs really, truly wrong! Religious idolatry and symbolism is everywhere in Moscow. Again, as people's and cultures, we have many more similarities than we do differences...
 Oct. 12: The State Historical Museum, constructed in 1872.

 Oct. 12: Whoops... missed this one! This is part of the Kremlin, to the right if the front while facing it. Not quite the corner if the Kremlin, but the corner of where Red Square starts. I think it's an impressive tower.
 Oct. 12: St. Basil's Cathedral, for me, not only the most opulent, but the most powerful and impressive building we see. It was built by Ivan the Terrible starting in 1555. A Russian Orthodox Church, it is built in the shape of a flame rising from a bonfire into the sky.
 Oct. 12: Spasskaya Tower, built in 1491 - including the Kremlin Clock and stands 71 m tall. The red star which sits atop was installed in 1935. As with all the structures we've seen and will see on this trek, the architectural style is wholly Italian. Although there is a few ornate rococo-style buildings between the Arbats that were commissioned by Stalin, the typical Moscow look is decidedly Italian since that's where all the designers came from.
Oct. 12: Lenin's Tomb, in which rests in front of the Kremlin. Although currently closed for renovation, Vladimir Lenin has been lying 'in state' and open to the public free of charge (with rare exceptions like WWII when his body was relocated to Siberia) since his death in 1924.
 Oct. 12: Walking a bit deeper into Red Square, along the front if the Kremlin. The cobblestone footing of the square is slippery for our western boots from the wear if millions and millions of feet and uneven from the parade of heavy military vehicles from the 'Cold War' era. I will identify the structures in coming photographs...
 Oct. 12: Now, the entry into Red Square which, along with the Kremlin, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Red Square is not only the 'centre' (plo-shat) of Moscow, but of Russia itself, symbolically speaking. Although used since the 12th century, it has been known as "Red Square" since the 14th century.

 Oct. 12: Changing of The Guard ceremony at the Russian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This is located within a commemoration of the regional European city allies of Russia from World War II.

 Oct. 12: The next corner of the Kremlin. Through a gothic metal gate, around the corner and up a cobblestone street and we'll be in Red Square. First, however, below this corner spire, is the...

Oct. 12: A rather cool monument along the Kremlin boundary side wall. Behind us is a park that, on Tuesday night when Bagdad and I first arrived was full of colorful flowers a d ornate arrangements. Last night, overnight, these were pulled out, the beds cultivated and fertilized and ferns and cold-tolerant evergreen plants and arrangements planted. This kind of shocked me.
Oct. 12: ... will be the Kremlin, or Russia's government house, or "Duma". This is where the Tsar and his family lived prior to the Revolution, and has housed the government for close to 100 years. This is one corner of the red brick wall that surrounds the Kremlin. The number of red bricks used in this wall would number in the millions, I am sure!
Oct. 12: ... including a statue in front of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-81), one of literature's most noted authors. He is the writer of "Crime and Punishment", "The Idiot" and "The Brothers Karamazov" ALL required university reading for English majors like I was when I was in the Faculty of Education at the University of Calgary. Ahead of us once we enter the street underpass and go through the gates...

Oct. 12: Russian State Library, aka Lenin's Library, the national library of Russia, built in 1862. 17.5 million books: the largest library in Russia and 3rd largest in the world. This is adjacent to a Metro station I'll share shortly. Ahead of us once we enter the street underpass and go through the gates...
 Oct. 12: Many flower merchants. If you want to purchase flowers in this part of the world, this is how you do it, 24-7-365. It is customary to, en route to someone's home, stop by one if these to purchase flowers, then go to a nearby kiosk to buy chocolates. I did A LOT of that when I lived in Kazakhstan...

 Oct. 12: One of the oldest Russian Orthodox churches in Russia, circa 15th century, across from the new Arbat...
 Oct. 12:
The #1 movie last weekend in Russia... and North America, which, while known as "Taken 2" at home, translates into "Hostage" in Russian. We think we're so different but, while taking this, a Katy Perry song is blasting out the Arbat loud speaker. Take note of the cool, unique design above the movie advertisement.

 Oct. 12: CAA Eastern European / Central Asian Trade Officer Bagdad Mukhamediyev, Canadian Beef Breeds Council Vice Chair and CAA Past President David Bolduc and CAA President Gary Latimer standing in front of the big shopping mall front at the openi
ng to the new Arbat. By the way... those big letters say "Arbat", which means "walking street" or "pedestrian street". This is the 'new' Arbat. The 'old' Arbat, equidistant from our Lotte Hotel from the opposite direction, has been around since the 15th century and is one of the most significant locations in Russia and, indeed, Europe.

Oct. 12: One mega-star who is coming just before Christmas...

 Oct. 12:
We just took a trip along the new Arbat to Red Square prior to heading off to the Golden Harvest livestock exhibition. Here is what we saw...

Terrible western artists infiltrating Russian culture...

 Oct. 11: Update for Thursday from Moscow...

It was a busy day as more participants from our federal and provincial Trade Mission arrived in Moscow.

Your CAA delegates attended the Voronezh Region (oblast, province, state) presentation on and promotion of its economic and investment potental at the Canadian Embassy (Governor / Akim Aleksey Gordeen and Agriculture Minister & Deputy Governor Anatoly

Spivakov are impressive individuals and highly committed to the role of agriculture in entrepreneurial development in their region and its governmental focus), then attended the Agro Salon at the Exhibition Complex in Crocus City on the outskirts of Moscow (the most AMAZING exhibition hall I've ever seen) and wrapped up with dinner at a Georgian restaurant with the Alberta government officials and a few more trade mission participants.

Your CAA delegation were guests of Canadian Ambassador H.E. John Sloan at the Canadian Embassy, a 15 minute walk from the Lotte Hotel on the other side of the Arbat, or central walking street that has been a mainstay of this city for hundreds of years and leads to the Kremlin, Lenin's
Tomb, St. Basil's Cathedral and the Bolshoi Theatre). We are finding that walking and taking the Metro (subway of Moscow - > 1 million riders daily!) are WAAAY faster and certainly less expensive than taking cabs in Moscow.

Voronezh is Russia's leading agriculture region but a powerful industrial centre as well with a population of 2.5 million people. This progressive oblast is experiencing Gross Regional Product of more than 2 X the national average and leading the nation in economic development and diversification. For example, Munich, Germany's Siemens, the largest Europe-based electronics and electrical engineering company, has opened a series of factories in Voronezh and becoming a key player in the region. There is no question, however, that agriculture development and, from a growth perspective, beef production, is a key focus for this government.

They identified five key benefits to this region and their governmental focus that include broad government investment incentives for joint ventures and foreign investment including tax breaks, propery access, interest payment subsidies and co-financing on capital and business investment for both seed and operational financing. This region is actively promoting and ready for Canadian (and other) companies to work with them to build the economy and, for us, the national cow herd. Their final message to us: We need from you. 

Their final message to us: We need from you: Will to cooperate and just one step forward. I’m quite taken by the sincerity of their message and their willingness to work with foreign companies.

One such initiative in Voronezh is Stevenson Sputnik, the new Russian variant of Stevenson Angus from Hobson, MT. Darrell Stevenson has been working with this ope
ration for almost three years now and has brought 3000 head to it from the United States and supervised their growth to 7000 head of purebred seedstock. The region now holds 70,000 head of cattle with the goal to have 350,000 by 2020. Since there are 35 million people within 500 km, they see the provision of red meat protein as a huge economic driver for Voronezh. Stevenson Sputnik recently held their first production sale of 740 head that included five head of bulls sold for semen production in Russia and they are excited to be the 40% owners of a Hamilton Farms bull purchased back in April, the first Canadian genetics at this operation.

In the afternoon we headed out to Agro Salon in Crocus City’s Exhibition Hall, the finest and fanciest exhibition building I’ve ever experienced. This is Russia’s largest farm / agriculture / agro equipment exhibition and featured implements from around the world with a surprising lack of domestic production. Your President, Gary Latimer was, of course, highly motivated by the John Deere displays but every major world fabricator was present including Soucy Tracks from Quebec. There were three halls full of equipment and a full crowd participating of what appeared to be mostly dealers as opposed to actual operators or farmers. Please see the pictures on this page (as well as my personal FB page) of some of the larger tractors on display.

Finally, we went for dinner at “Hatcha Pourri”, a Georgian restaurant a few blocks from our hotel with the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development government representatives (Assistant Deputy Minister Colin Jeffares; Dave Burdek, Executive Director: Policy, Strategy and Intergovernmental Affairs Division; Grant Winton, Trade Development Officer - Russia / India / Middle East: International Relations and Marketing Branch) and a couple other members of the Trade Mission. We talked strategy and focus and it was a pleasant and productive evening.

On Friday we will take part in the Golden Harvest livestock exhibition and we are very much looking forward to this!

Gary’s key observation so far? Canada has not done a very effective job to date in getting into Russia and working to promote our genetics and Canadian buying advantage to them. David Bolduc is feeling like there is LOTS of opportunity for growth here in Russia and Voronezh oblast, for example, is now starting to look at Canada for high quality genetic improvement. Linking with government is absolutely key, and our Canadian government and provincial government agriculture and trade departments MUST be involved to assist with the credibility of our efforts in promotion and development.

More to come after our Friday efforts…

Oct. 11: CAA President Gary Latimer and CBBC Vice Chair, and CAA Past President, David Bolduc, check out a futuristic New Holland loader tractor at Agro Expo in Moscow, Russia.

 Oct. 11: The opening to Agro Salon, one of the largest farm implement exhibitions in the world, currently being held in Moscow, Russia. 

 Oct. 11: Claas tractor demonstration in the parking lot of Agro Expo in Moscow, Russia on Thursday, October 11th, 2012.

 Oct. 10: A 'low key' day in Moscow on Wednesday. Contacted a number of Russian and Kazakhstan agri-businesses and public officials to 'firm up' meetings for this trip. Most of the day spent in the Lotte Hotel on my computer and phone. Not the most rewarding day but needed to be done and didn't get so while still in Canada. The rest of the federal and provincial delegation are still arriving so today is
still kind of a 'gathering' day. It is cool and overcast here, the high about 9 degrees, so pretty simliar to home, actually. Monday afternoon / evening for my local walk around the area was actually quite brisk. Moscow is a perfect balance of heritage and history with just a touch of western commercialization; in addition to the McDonalds I also found a Subway. There are only these two, however, in central Moscow; the rest of the restaurants have strong cultural ties: Georgia, Poland, Turkey, Romania among those I can see outside my hotel room window, in addition to the Japanese and French restaurants inside the Lotte hotel. Everything is quite expensive here, at least in central Moscow - about 30-50% higher than at home. Today we will start meeting people, so Gary, Bagdad and I have our Russian-translated CAA business cards at the ready! We are prepared to Rep-re-ZENT!!!

Oct. 9: Arrived in Moscow this afternoon and toured the Kremlin, Red Square, St. Basil's Cathedral (I think the most exquisite building I've ever been in) and the Bolshoi Theatre. Also rode the Metro (at a time when there were around 350,000 riding it!) so that's something else I can 'check off'. Spend the evening sharing our strategy for marketing and awareness with Badgad, our Eastern European / Centr
al Asian Trade Director so all is good. I'm going to struggle with pictures since there is no 3G network and I'm not sure how successfully my phone connects with the hotel WiFi but I'll try. Oh... had to provide a gift of two of our new Canadian Angus Rancher Endorsed pocket knives to the Customs officers so not much has changed in the 10 years since I frequented this part of the world!!!

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