This week’s federal budget put the emphasis squarely on finding markets at home and abroad for top-quality agricultural products.
The budget allocates $134.4 million over five years in support of a Food Policy for Canada to address food-related issues.
The policy aims to position Canada as a trusted source of healthy food. It will help producers stay in business by getting food to the communities that need it; growing domestic and export markets; supporting food security in northern and Indigenous communities; and reducing food waste.
To make sure food delivers the best return on production costs, a further $100 million is being made available through a strategic innovation fund.
Development of the policy reflects the report of a working group led by Saskatchewan pulse processor Murad Al-Katib, which underpinned an economic strategy for Canada’s agri-food sector. BC representatives in the group included Ratana Stephens, co-owner of Nature’s Path Foods Inc. in Richmond, and producers Gary Baars and Jack Froese.
The working group urged development of domestic markets as well as export markets, where Ottawa hopes to ship $75 billion of agri-food products by 2025.
Then-agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay pointed to poultry and egg consumption as an example, noting it had increased 10% from the previous year. He believes farmers could reap similar success with other products.
“There are no specific targets set, but the fact is you can look at what happened in the chicken industry,” he told Country Life in BC at the time. “The fact is if we do it right and work hard at it, we can increase the consumption within our country of Canadian products.”
The budget announcement doesn’t set targets, either, but it antes up the cash that will help farmers and processes grow their businesses.