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Food industry wants input on manufacturing study

Food processing is a big export sector

Food processor associations — and likely other agri-food industry groups — will respond to a call for ideas on the future of Canada’s manufacturing sector.

The Commons industry committee has requested written submissions on ways to boost Canada’s small, medium and large manufacturing companies.

The committee opened its examination of the topic in June, with public hearings with a small group of national associations and expert witnesses, before issuing the call for briefs. None of the sessions so far were with the agri-food sector, although they may have their chance when the committee resumes hearings in the fall.

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Carla Ventin, vice-president of federal government affairs with Food & Consumer Products of Canada, said her organization had already requested an opportunity to present its views to the committee in the fall. It will likely submit a brief as well.

Christopher Kyte, president of Food Processors of Canada, said his group will be responding to the committee’s request.

The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute hopes to appear before the committee to outline its work on developing a national food policy and identifying the sector’s importance to the national economy.

Statistics Canada has reported that for 2015, only transportation equipment industries, at $10 billion, posted higher sales than food manufacturing, at $7.9 billion. The food industry posted a 4.6 per cent increase in sales during 2015, which was among the strongest for all the sectors noted by StatsCan. The sales include both domestic and export.

Sales in January 2016 reached $8.4 billion compared to $7.9 billion in January 2015.

Later this year, the committee will report its conclusions and recommendations to the Commons. A key part of the committee’s work will be identifying measures needed to restore manufacturing as a strategic sector for economic development.

The MPs also want to review the causes and consequences of manufacturing job losses and ways to improve the domestic manufacturing sector as well as analyze the state of industrial innovation.

Their report will also propose solutions “to strengthen the manufacturing sector as well as protect and promote manufacturing employment and training to fill skills shortages in the domestic labour force.”

Agriculture Canada says the sector ranging from the farm through the processer to the retailer generates almost seven per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. It provides one in eight jobs in Canada, employing over 2.2 million people. With the global population expected to reach 9.5 billion in 2050, compared to just over seven billion currently, the agri-food sector should have a growing demand for its products. Canada is already the fifth-largest food exporter in the world.

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