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Report a wake-up for agri-food sector


February 9, 2011
By Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute

Topics

February
8, 2011, Ottawa, Ont – Canada is not realizing the full potential of a major
strategic asset – the country’s agri-food sector.

February
8, 2011, Ottawa, Ont – Canada is not realizing the full potential of a major
strategic asset – the country’s agri-food sector.

The
consequences of falling profitability, lost opportunity and declining relevance
are impairing Canada’s ability to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities
that lie ahead. That’s the main message in a new report from the Canadian
Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI)
, Canada’s Agri-Food Destination.

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Canada’s
agri-food industry is the country’s largest employer and a major exporter. Yet
chronic non-profitability, rising food imports and the risk of being surpassed
by other exporting nations flag serious underlying deficiencies in the system.
Add to this a dramatic rise in diet-related diseases and obesity, environmental
threats, falling research and development investments and the persistent call
for a modern regulatory process. The status quo is unacceptable. Canada’s
agri-food industry has the natural and human resources to do much better – yet
Canada risks sleeping right through its greatest potential.

CAPI
is hoping to wake the country up by sparking discussions designed to pioneer a
new agri-food plan. Industry and government need to embrace new approaches,
including transforming the traditional value chain mindset, adopting a new
innovation model and reforming government support programs. The plan also
advances ideas for healthier food choices, environmental sustainability and regulatory
change.

Achieving
our potential requires that Canada must have the most successful good food
systems on the planet. The agri-food industry, its suppliers, researchers,
adjacent sectors and governments need to work in closely integrated food systems
to achieve this “destination” in order to reach the following targets – which
are catalysts for change – by 2025:

  • To
    double Canada’s dollar value of agri-food exports to $75 billion (currently:
    $38.8 billion)
  • To
    produce and supply 75 per cent of our own food (currently: 68 per cent)
  • To
    have more than 75 per cent of the agri-food sector rely on biomaterials and/or
    biofuels to develop new revenues or reduce expenses

“We
hope the ideas in this report will spur creative discussion among all
stakeholders – from farmers to foodies, from researchers to regulators, from
environmentalists to economists, from the health community to consumers and
back again,” said Gaëtan Lussier, chair of CAPI. “We need all participants in
the agri-food sector and all those involved in food to step up to the plate.
The opportunity is clear. We need consumers here and abroad to choose Canadian
food. We want investors to choose Canada. We know that the agri-food sector can
contribute even more to Canada’s prospects.”

The
ideas for this report have been in development since late 2009 with the
establishment of three leadership panels (on food and wellness connection,
sustainability and viability) to explore key agri-food issues and propose
solutions. Participants represented the breadth of the agri-food sector,
including primary agriculture, processors, agri-food businesses and
organizations, input providers and retail, and from health and environment
organizations and research institutes, academia, and federal and provincial
governments.

“We
need an agri-food plan that transcends our traditional five-year planning
horizon and rediscovers the vitality and sense of excitement that comes with
new opportunities,” said Lussier. “An intensively collaborative attitude across
each food system will lead to good food responsibly produced and reliably
supplied.”

The
next step is to receive feedback from industry, government, and other
stakeholders on how best to implement these strategic changes. CAPI invites
comments and insights. CAPI will focus its efforts now on how best to implement
the core ideas in the destination report and expects to provide an update on
the feedback in May 2011.

CAPI
is also releasing a number of research papers on its website that helped
support the development of this work (www.capi-icpa.ca).


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