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Invest in value-added food, senate urges government

A Canadian senate committee urges governments to improve pathways for the value-added food industry.
A Canadian senate committee urges governments to improve pathways for the value-added food industry. - 123RF Stock Photo

Committee says there is untapped potential in value-added food sector


It should be easier for Canadian companies to trade value-added food internationally, says a senate committee.

To grow the processed food industry, Canada should improve regulations for international trade, invest in innovation and reduce barriers to growth inside Canadian borders, a senate committee said recently.

Currently, only about half of the food grown in Canada is processed here, a gap the committee believes should be closed.

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. 

“This is a sector where we’re already seeing incredible ingenuity in the development of products that meet both national and international demand,” said Sen. Diane Griffin of P.E.I., who is committee chairwoman. 

“With support … Canada’s value-added sector could become an essential component of the Canadian economy.”


- 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, 94.1per cent have less 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.

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

The committee also recommended investing in research and development and using existing mechanisms to support innovation and encourage businesses that manufacture value-added products.

The government should look to harmonize trucking regulations, reduce trade barriers between provinces and territories, improve transportation networks across the country and rectify the industry-wide labour shortage to resolve the barriers to growth within Canada’s borders.  

There are 59,000 positions currently vacant in the value-added food industry. To help fill them, the committee wants to speed up the process from temporary foreign worker to permanent resident when workers 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,” said committee deputy chairman Sen. Don Plett.

Find the report online: Made in Canada: Growing Canada’s Value-Added Food Sector.

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