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Blood Tribe to sign contract with Japanese (Transfeeder Corp).

In what would be a first for Canada's Aboriginal people, the Blood Tribe is poised to sign a memorandum of understanding with a major Japanese company for the export of an agricultural product.

Timothy, a perennial hay grown on the reserve's irrigated Big Lease lands, would be compressed in Alberta, then exported to the Sumitomo Corporation to feed Japan's growing dairy herds. The contract would be part of a joint venture with the Transfeeder Corporation of Olds, Alta.

Blood Chief Roy Fox, who led a small trade delegation to Tokyo recently, said the agreement would be the next step in "a well-planned process that will see construction of a compressing plant on the reserve in the near future. We are working with Transfeeder in all phases of the venture."

Transfeeder, a part of the Alberta Timothy Group, is the largest timothy compactor in the country. It currently operates plants in Alberta at Olds, Cremona and Peace River.

"We've been in the Japanese market for 12 years," said Transfeeder vice-president Barry Schmitt. "Because of our experience, we'd be leading the venture. But if we're to continue a long-term relationship with the Blood Tribe, it has to be a win-win situation for both of us. We should have a contract in place by early spring."

According to Blood Tribe Agricultural Project official Frances First Charger, the tribe's goal is to seed 3,000 hectares of timothy by the turn of the century. About 30 to 40 percent of the 30,000 metric tons of hay would be grown on the tribe's land, with the rest coming from other reserves or nearby non-Native off-reserve landowners. The Blood Tribe plans to start work on a storage building as soon as the deal is finalized, said First Charger.

"Because we have the irrigation system in place, we can get into timothy production without much capital. We'd just need a tractor and baler, and some fertilizer."

First Charger said the tribe had been talking to Transfeeder about the project since 1991 and have been working together on feasibility and action plans since 1994.

"We don't have a firm commitment for the deal, but everything looks pretty good," he said.

Sumitomo executives have already visited the reserve twice to inspect the crop and meet project officials. Fox said the Blood and the Japanese have much in common, as both seek to understand the culture and gain the trust of the people they do business with.

"This is a big opportunity for both the Blood people and Canada to export value-added agricultural products," he said.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Barb Grinder
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Dec 1, 1996
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