The value of food to the Canadian economy reaches far beyond the value of primary production, processing and distribution, a new report by the Conference Board of Canada says.
But as one of Canada’s most highly regulated sectors, the food industry’s opportunity for continued growth will depend on its ability to address two competing pressures: the pressure to open up its markets and encourage the industry to go global versus the pressure to continue protecting domestic markets.
“We have the opportunity today to create the conditions that will support the food sector’s growth as an economic engine, while also contributing to safe and healthy food choices, sustaining our environment, and providing greater access to food in Canada and around the globe,” said Anne Golden, president and CEO in a release. “A more modern and effective food sector could become an even greater force for economic and social good than it is today.”
The food business generates more than nine per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for about 2.3 million jobs or 13 per cent of total employment, the reportValuing Food: The Economic Contribution of Canada’s Food Sectorsays.
The report is the first of a series of about 20 publications that will be produced over the next three years for the Centre for Food In Canada.
The analysis quantifies the economy-wide impact of food produced in Canada for domestic consumption as well as food destined for export.
It examines a number of demand-and supply-driven trends affecting Canada’s food sector, including aging and an increasingly diverse and urbanizing population, with smaller households and growing numbers of dual-income earners.
Food for domestic consumption
is responsible for the greatest portion of GDP and employment – at 7.4 per cent of GDP, and 1.95 million jobs. Exports contributed about $39 billion in revenue to Canada in 2010 and about 350,000 jobs, the report says.
Spending is also strong and increasing. In 2010, 16.4 per cent of total Canadian consumption spending was on food, or the equivalent of $4,538 annually for every man, woman and child in Canada.
“Real spending on food per person has increased over time as individuals have spent more on higher-value items,” the report says.
About 30 per cent of food consumed in Canada is imported food, a percentage that’s been rising since 1990.
Canadians are also relatively well shielded from global food price increases as the “value added” of food is increasingly found further from the farm gate and closer to the processing and preparation segments of the supply chain, the report says.
Yet, even as our food needs are met, and the nation’s resources bode well for fundamental food security, the challenge facing businesses within the nation’s food economy lies in how to achieve future growth, the report asserts.
“Our relatively small population of just over 34 million (about 0.5 per cent of the global total) means that the potential for domestic growth is limited; Canadian food sector companies seeking to expand significantly must focus on growing their businesses through exports.”
The challenge will be how to become more engaged in the international food business even as agriculture remains “one of the most heavily protected of all Canada’s economic sectors,” the report says.
The Centre for Food In Canada is a three-year Conference Board program of research and dialogue toward the development of a framework for a Canadian Food Strategy. The CFIC is supported by about 30 companies and organizations.
The fullValuing Foodreport can be found at www.conferen ceboard.ca.
– EXCERPTED FROM VALUING FOOD: