Canada has made its first commercial shipment of alfalfa hay to China, through Green Prairie International, since Canada gained market access for the crop in March 2011, according to Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.  

Twenty containers of the hay have been shipped to China and 40 more containers have been ordered; the total is estimated at $600,000. "This is the first of many shipments as China's growing demand translates into new sales opportunities for Canadian producers, and jobs and growth for our economy," said Ritz. "This is solid evidence that Canadian exporters are taking advantage of new market access secured by this government."

China's hay and forage product imports have increased significantly in the last five years, going from $119,000 in 2006 to over $103 million in 2011. Alfalfa hay is a high-quality forage used in livestock feed, in particular for dairy cattle. China is expanding its dairy industry — aiming to double its milk production by 2015 — and the growing demand for alfalfa hay on the Chinese market is offering sales opportunities for Canadian producers. "We are extremely excited by this new marketing opportunity between Canada and China," said John Van Hierden, president and CEO of Green Prairie International. "This will create unprecedented opportunities for the Canadian forage industry. We believe this will create important economic and cultural benefits to both Canada and China."