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Ontario invests $2.5 million to grow agri-food e-business during COVID-19

The investment hopes to help producers get their businesses online and provide anyone shopping from home more food choices during the COVID-19 pandemic.


April 28, 2020
By Fruit and Vegetable

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The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing up to $2.5 million to help the agri-food sector expand online. The investment hopes to help producers get their businesses online and provide anyone shopping from home more food choices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Agri-Food Open for E-Business initiative will help food producers, farmers markets, retailers, garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries, and agricultural associations develop online businesses. The funding is being provided through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

This targeted application intake features two funding streams:

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  • Bring your business online: Eligible organizations and businesses can apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to establish an online e-business and marketing presence. Funding under this stream will be quick and responsive for those needing immediate solutions.
  • Develop online business opportunities: Eligible organizations, businesses and collaborations can apply for cost-share funding of up to $75,000 to implement high-impact projects.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) will immediately accept applications and expedite the approval process. Eligible applications will be received and assessed on a continuous basis, while funding is available.

The first stream provides funding for the development (or expansion) of an online marketing/sales platform, website design, marketing, minor facility modifications, among other costs associated with transitioning to a new market channel. OMAFRA states that this funding can be applied for costs incurred on or after April 24, 2020 – which leaves out costs incurred by producers before this date. For some fruit and vegetable producers, they have already seen significant chances to their delivery models and no doubt incurred costs already.

Costs eligible for funding include the development (or expansion) of an online marketing/sales platform, website design, marketing, minor facility modifications, among other costs associated with transitioning to a new market channel.

The second stream provides funding for many of the same activities but offers more funding of up to $75,000 (for up to 90 per cent of eligible costs) for “high-impact” projects.

“Workers from across our food supply chain are providing essential services to our country and we appreciate their hard work and dedication to keep our agriculture and agri-food system strong during this challenging time,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, in a released statement. “This investment will provide support as businesses quickly adapt to new and different ways of providing affordable and nutritious food to Canadians.”

“We’re helping agri-food businesses adapt to the retail challenges of this unprecedented time,” added Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s provincial minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, in a released statement. “COVID-19 has changed the way we shop, and our investment today in e-business will go a long way to connecting the people who grow our food with the people who buy it, while allowing them to practice physical distancing.”

This announcement following many announcements made in response to COVID-19 to help Ontario’s agri-food sector. Recently, the federal government and Ontario’s provincial government invested up to $1 million in new funding to connect workers with jobs in the agri-food sector. The funding will go toward projects that are identifying tactics that will boost the labour capacity, skillsets, and supply within the province’s agricultural sector.

The Ontario government also launched a new web portal to connect workers with employers looking to fill positions in the agri-food sector. The new online tool will match people to essential jobs and training resources throughout the provincial food supply chain.