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From the Editor: Fruit and Vegetable March 2016


February 18, 2016
By Marg Land


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Trust (noun) – a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

In November 2015, the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and Canada 2020 invited agriculture and food industry leaders from throughout Canada and other parts of the world to take part in a two-day event in Ottawa – the Forum on Canada’s Agri-Food Future 2015.

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Since then, two position papers have been released outlining the forum process and discussing what might be possible in Canada’s agri-food future. In February, CAPI released the final report from the forum, entitled: Achieving what’s possible for Canada’s agri-food sector. And the key message from that 23-page document? Trust.

“Trust is now the defining issue facing nearly everyone involved in food production and supply, both in Canada and among competitors and customers abroad,” the report states. “How we cultivate trust may very well be the key to future competitiveness.

“For us, the pathway is clear: It is in Canada’s best interest – both economically and for the well-being of its citizens – to see that the country’s agri-food systems delivers a strategy to enhance and retain trust.”

And how can that be accomplished? According to forum participants, by meeting four key challenges: securing social licence, leveraging Canada’s natural advantage within the global food system, addressing complacency about adding value, and influencing rules and outcomes.

“Given these challenges, forum participants weighed this question: What is possible?” the report states. “Developing an agri-food strategy focused on trust is a potentially powerful strategic driver. It speaks to the strengths of the agri-food sector and Canada at large. Trust links the entire sector, from how we manage soil and water to how we deliver food to the consumer’s plate. Every player in the food system has a role in ensuring that trust.”

According to Forum on Canada’s Agri-Food Future 2015 participants, these are the choices facing Canada’s agri-food sector moving forward:

  • to earn consumer trust, the industry needs to demonstrate care is being taken to ensure food safety, improve food nutrition, address animal care, maintain planet health and satisfy other expectations;
  • to be more productive and remain competitive, managing and enhancing natural capital must be considered;
  • to add more value to the food produced, collaboration between scientists, the agri-food industry, and government must occur differently;
  • if more supportive public policies are desired for the sector, agri-food’s benefits as a wealth creator and contributor to social well-being must be highlighted;
  • if Canada’s interests abroad are to be advanced, the country’s performance on managing natural capital must be leveraged to shape standards and rules that guide worldwide agri-food trade;
  • if Canada aspires to be “the most trusted agri-food system,” that status must be awarded by consumers based on the industry’s actions – not just declared by stakeholders.

“Taking decisions and actions here could set up the ‘breakthrough agenda’ needed for the sector to reposition itself for a changing food world and help fulfill its potential as a priority economic sector for Canada,” the report concludes. “However, ‘a coalition of the willing’ must rally around one clear message: It is in Canada’s best interest – both economically and for the well-being of its citizens – to see that the country’s agri-food system delivers a strategy that enhances and retains trust.”

It’s time to build that coalition of the willing.