Canadian government data show that Canada is the world’s fifth largest agricultural exporter and sixth largest importer.
According to the federal government, last year Canada exported nearly $82.2 billion in agriculture and food products (including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods) to over 200 countries.
We also know that the agriculture and agri-food sector generates billions of dollars in prosperity and supports millions of Canadian jobs in every region of our country.
In short, agriculture is huge economic driver for our country.
This is not surprising. Canada was built on agriculture. Almost everyone has a connection to a family farm.
But when you hear the federal government talk about the economy, you hear all about electric vehicles and other cars, the aerospace industry and enough mentions about clean-tech and innovation to make your head explode.
But so little about farming and agriculture – which accounts for 1 in 9 jobs in Canada!
It seems politicians see agriculture as a strength from the past – when in fact agriculture is very much the future!
My question is a real one: why do we take our farmers, producers, processors and food manufacturers for granted?
When they are being attacked by uneducated professors, environmental activists and protectionist governments from around the world we say nothing.
As Canadians, we like to be the nice guys don’t, we? But you know what they say about nice guys – they finish last.
We need to create a ‘finish first’ culture in Canada when it comes to agriculture and agri-food. We can and should be leading the world. From pork and beef to cheese to grains, pulses and processed foods, we are a superpower.
This is even more important now that the WTO, UNCTAD, the G7 and other global bodies are warning of a global food crisis.
This can be Canada’s moment to shine as we have more than enough food to feed ourselves and the world. We should feel proud of this. Feeing the world is noble and in line with Canadian values. Helping ensure poorer countries have access to health food should be central to Canada’s place in the world.
Canadian commentator Arlene Dickinson (of Dragon’s Den fame) argues we need to rethink our approach to food. Dickinson says “we have become a grow and export not a grow and creation nation.”
She says we need both but that Canada lacks in investment in food production. She’s bang on.
According to the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA):
“Over the next 20 to 30 years, the global demand for agri-food products will continue to grow rapidly. Driven by population growth and rising incomes around the world, it is projected that agricultural demand in 2050 will be 50 per cent higher than it was in 2013. As the world’s fifth largest agri-food exporter, this presents an immense global growth opportunity for Canada. Competition will be fierce, and we must recognize that unless we are leading the pack we are doomed to be left behind.”
Numerous publications have highlighted the opportunity before us including the influential Barton Report. Like similar reports, it is sitting on a shelf collecting dust while other countries surge ahead.
It’s time to get serious. It’s time for the government to be proactive and ambitious.
Our agriculture sector is waiting for a growth partner. It’s time for consumers to demand the government step up to the plate.
Are you with us?