Increased reliance on imports weakens Canadian food sector: Report

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

The Canadian food industry is losing relevance, profitability and quality, says a new report from the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI), which outlines steps that could help reverse the trend.

Canada was once the world’s third-largest food producer, but now ranks seventh, and imports 50 percent more food than it did in 2000, the report said. With increased reliance on imports, the Canadian food sector could miss out on big opportunities, as the world’s demand for food is widely expected to grow by about 70 percent by 2050.

CAPI, a non-partisan policy forum, urges the Canadian food industry to take advantage of the nation’s natural advantages in terms of climate, geography and skills to produce higher volumes of better quality food.

“Canada can be the world’s leading producer of nutritious and safe foods produced in a sustainable, profitable manner,”​ the report said. “This would pack a competitive punch that few other countries in the world can match.”

CAPI sets out three so-called ’75 by 25’ goals for the Canadian agri-food sector to aim for by 2025. These include nearly doubling the dollar value of agri-food exports from C$38.8bn to C$75bn; increasing the amount of domestically produced and supplied food to at least 75 percent, from 68 percent today; and making environmental policy changes to ensure 75 percent of the sector relies on biofuels and biomaterials by 2025, to develop new revenues and reduce expenses.

Chair of CAPI Gaëtan Lussier said: “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.”

To achieve its goals, CAPI said that the food industry needs to reframe its thinking in terms of whole ‘food systems’, instead of in terms of sectors, value chains and product lines.

“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 full CAPI report is available online here​.

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