Ottawa – A recent report has concluded that Canada is not capitalizing on one of its major strategic assets – it’s agri-food sector.
The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) released the report, Canada’s Agri-Food Destination, in February and found that the consequences of falling profitability, lost opportunity and declining relevance are impairing Canada’s ability to seize on opportunities.
CAPI says Canada’s agri-food industry is the country’s largest employer and a major exporter. But chronic unprofitability, rising food imports and the risk of being surpassed by other exporting nations show there are underlying deficiencies in the system.
Other challenges include the rise in diet-related diseases and obesity, environmental threats, falling research and development investments and the call for a modern regulatory process.
“Canada’s agri-food industry has the natural and human resources to do much better – yet Canada risks sleeping right through it’s greatest potential,” says CAPI.
The institute is hoping to spark discussions designed to pioneer a new agri-food plan. And is calling on industry and government to embrace new approaches, including adopting a new innovation model and reforming government support programs.
The plan also advances ideas for healthier food choices, environmental sustainability and regulatory change.
CAPI also suggests targets for the industry, which it says can form catalysts for change. The institute’s target date is 2025. The targets include:
• To double Canada’s dollar value of agri-food exports to $75 billion (currently $38.8 billion);
• To produce and supply 75% of our own food (currently 68%); and
• To have more than 75% of the agri-food sector rely on biomaterials and/or biofuels to develop new revenues or reduce expenses.
CAPI says it hopes the report’s ideas will start the 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, says Gaetan 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.”