Grow the value-added food sector to capitalize on its untapped potential: Senate committee
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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.
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 released a report “Made in Canada: Growing Canada’s value-added food sector” that recommends regulatory changes that maintain Canada’s brand of quality and safety while expanding its reach to international markets. It recommends updates for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Canada Border Services.
By improving food processing capacity within our borders, supporting innovation,and strengthening our global image, Canada can increase its international exports.
The report states “Canada’s abundance of primary products provides a comparative advantage to the value-added sector: it has a ready supply of product to which it can add value. However, the sector must ensure that it adds value through a consumer-centric approach, including innovating to develop products that meet emerging consumer trends. The government should work to develop a global marketing program that focuses explicitly on increasing the profile of the Canada Brand.
“However, regulatory barriers prevent farmers and processors from exporting some of these made-in-Canada products. While regulatory safeguards are necessary to preserve confidence in Canada’s reputation for safe and high-quality agri-food products, the current system restricts innovative practices and products.”
The report 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.
“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,” Senator Diane Griffin, chair of the committee said in a release.
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.
“There is an appetite for made-in-Canada food and products, both within our borders and internationally. We need to encourage growth in the food manufacturing industry by improving our transport systems and making regulations clearer and easier to follow,” Senator Don Plett, deputy chair of the committee said.
The committee set out eight specific recommendations in the report, including supporting the development of the food processing sector in Western Canada. Read the full list of recommendations here.