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Senate makes recommendations on how best to grow Canada’s value-added food sector

July 19, 2019  By Senate of Canada

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry recently released their recommendations following a thorough review about how best to grow Canada’s value-added food sector. Canada should expand the value-added food sector by improving regulations to allow for the expansion of international trade of processed food products, investing in innovation, and reducing the barriers to growth inside its borders, a Senate committee said.

The value-added food sector takes raw agricultural products, like apples or hemp fibre, and transforms them into something else, like cider or cat litter. Currently, only about half of the food grown in Canada is processed here, demonstrating a gap the committee believes should be closed.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry is recommending regulatory changes that maintain Canada’s brand of quality and safety while expanding its reach to international markets. It recommends updates for the Canada Food Inspection Agency and Canada Border Services.

It also recommends investing in research and development and using existing mechanisms to support innovation in the sector, including grants, rebates and superclusters, to encourage the launch or growth of businesses that manufacture value-added products.

Barriers to growth within Canada’s borders should also be resolved. The government should look to harmonize trucking regulations and reduce trade barriers between provinces and territories, improve transportation networks across the country and rectify the industry-wide labour shortage. There are 59,000 positions currently vacant in the industry. To help fill them, the committee recommends expediting the path of temporary foreign workers to permanent residency when they comply with the program.

The food processing sector is one of the country’s largest employers, representing 17.3 per cent of manufacturing employment.
Of all value-added food companies in Canada, 94.1 per cent have fewer than 100 employees. Companies with more than 500 employees make up only 0.5 per cent of the total.

The average job vacancy rate in the agriculture sector varied between 4.5 per cent and 6.3 per cent in 2017, while the average for all Canadian industries was only 2.8 per cent that year.

“This is a sector where we’re already seeing incredible ingenuity in the development of products that meet both national and international demand. With support from the federal government to break down regulatory barriers and foster further innovation, Canada’s value-added sector could become an essential component of the Canadian economy,” said Senator Diane Griffin, chair of the committee.

Read the report here: Made in Canada: Growing Canada’s Value-Added Food Sector.

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