Agri-Food Growth Steering
Committee Advice to Minister Leal
The Honourable Jeff Leal
Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
77 Grenville Street
October 27, 2015
Ontario's diverse and complex agri-food sector, which links together
suppliers, producers, processors, retailers and food service,
is a significant contributor to the economic well-being and social
fabric of this province. Understanding this, in 2013 Premier Wynne
- who at the time also served as Minister of Agriculture and Food
- issued a challenge to the Ontario agri-food industry. This was
a call to double the annual rate of economic growth in the agri-food
sector and create an additional 120,000 new jobs by 2020.
Shortly after the 2014 Premier's Summit on Agri-Food, we were
asked by you, Minister, as the Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee,
to provide you with advice on how best to support industry in
meeting the Premier's Challenge. Specifically, you asked us to
develop meaningful, targeted, evidence-based actions, which government,
industry and other partners will use to spur domestic and international
market growth and guide the development of a provincial system
to accurately measure future growth of Ontario's agri-food sector.
Minister, the Committee is confident Ontario can build its competitive
advantage as a long-term global leader in food production for
domestic and international consumption. Taking advantage of opportunities
through recent trade agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership,
will support this work. Industry leadership, responsive government
programming, and supportive regulatory reforms are critical to
increasing the competitiveness of Ontario's agri-food businesses
and achieving the Premier's Challenge. Enhancing competitiveness
is a pre-condition to success in growing domestic markets and
We also believe that it is critical that the Ministry, in the
design and development of future programming, such as Growing
Forward 3, continue its focus on supporting evidence-based growth
Current data indicates that industry is on its way to meeting
the Premier's Challenge of creating 120,000 new jobs and doubling
the agri-food sector's annual growth rate by 2020:
Ontario agri-food exports for 2014 totalled $12.5 billion,
an increase of 5.5 per cent over 2013.
Ontario agri-food jobs for 2014 totalled 781,639, an increase
of 2.2 per cent over 2013.
With these thoughts in mind, the following summarizes the committee's
recommendations for your consideration, which we suggest be achieved
through metrics determined by the end of 2015:
Understanding a business' competitive position requires data,
analysis and benchmarking. Future investments, innovation and
automation in the agri-food sector will create opportunities
for growth along the value chain and encourage an increase of
higher value jobs.
To support the Premier's Challenge, the Agri-Food Scorecard
was developed. It established high-level targets, facilitates
the identification of trends and enables the measurement of
progress over time. To build on the work of the Agri-Food Scorecard,
we recommend that the Ministry work with industry organizations
to build sub-sector measurement systems and create indicators
that measure progress towards increasing the competitiveness
of a sector relative to competitive and comparable jurisdictions.
Businesses will also be able to benchmark themselves against
other businesses in their industry.
- Canada's food processing industry is primarily located within
Ontario, accounting for 41% of the total Canadian GDP in food
processing and 37% of Canada's employment in food processing in
We recommend that Ontario and industry partner to champion the
importance of food processing (e.g. jobs and investment) at the
Agriculture Ministers' Federal/Provincial Table, and make it one
of the priority areas for Growing Forward 3. This will strengthen
the call to recognize Ontario's agri-food sector's value and importance
to the Canadian economy.
- Ontario is a great place to do business, especially in the agri-food
sector. Ontario offers access to: fresh water supplies, logistics,
the North American food supply chain and numerous other benefits.
Ontario needs to better promote and target the competitive business
environment it offers to prospective and current agri-food businesses.
We recommend that you, Minister, and the ministry enhance activities
to attract and retain agri-food investments, to grow our domestic
market shares and drive exports. This role should be in partnership
with the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development, Employment
and Infrastructure, and the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration
and International Trade.
- Canada has a strong international reputation for food quality
and safety. We recommend Ontario work with the federal government,
and other provinces, to lever federal supports to differentiate
Canadian products from those of our competitors for greater success
in export markets. A key mark of success would be to slow the
rising Ontario agri-food trade deficit.
- Minister, given that we have a target to increase exports to
$20B by 2020, we encourage you to look at further opportunities
to expand markets abroad. This would build on the success of Ontario's
first agri-food trade mission to China, in Spring 2015, which
resulted in signing $9 million in business deals. We recommend
that OMAFRA work with the private sector to further increase exports,
while making strides on import replacement.
- The Committee believes the OMAFRA Minister's Open for Business
Forum is a constructive model to have early discussions on cross-government
changes that impact agri-food, as well as focus on key areas to
reduce regulatory burden. We recommend that OMAFRA engage the
agri-food sector to refresh and refocus on key areas for improved
regulatory design and enforcement in order to ensure an effective
and trusted agri-food system that supports Ontario's competitiveness.
- To implement this advice, we recommend that OMAFRA and industry
collaborate in developing a plan to build up the competitiveness
of Ontario's agri-food sector, with a strong focus on innovation,
scale and modernization. The plan should identify new opportunities
for growth along the entire agri-food value chain, as well as
address barriers to growth that impact retention and attraction
of agri-food investments in Ontario. We recommend that the Ministry
prioritize its work to focus on high-value growth opportunities
with value chain partners that are prepared for this challenge.
Government needs to identify where investment and partnerships
should be focussed to best align with industry's innovation, scale
and modernization needs. The new Jobs and Prosperity Fund is an
excellent example of a much needed tool to enhance industry competitiveness.
We note and support the lower eligibility threshold ($5M) for
the Food and Beverage stream, relative to other manufacturing
sectors ($10M), given the smaller scale of Ontario food processors.
We recommend that OMAFRA consider programming to address the needs
of small and medium-size companies that may need to make strategic
investments in order to scale up, become more efficient and take
advantage of new market opportunities. This is especially important
for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, where more than 50%
of the industry is clustered, as they do not have access to the
specific regional funds available to the other areas of the province.
Ontario has significant potential in terms of growth in the agri-food
sector, but many opportunities remain untapped. As a committee,
we focused on identifying barriers to growth and ways that the government
can support industry to break through these challenges.
Minister, we as members of your Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee
have been honoured by your request to participate in this important
process because we are excited by the potential of Ontario's agri-food
sector. Agriculture and food production are this province's founding
industries, and they continue to be one of its greatest economic
contributors. It is our hope that the advice we provide today, will
only help grow that remarkable legacy for the generations to come.
The Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee
Amy Cronin (Co-Chair)
Deb Stark (Co-Chair)
Christian von Twickel
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