A new program aimed at expanding the number of organic farmers in Western Canada has received $1.2 million from the federal Western Diversification Program (WDP).
The cash will be put towards the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI), a four-year $2.2-million program being rolled out this spring by western Canadian organic associations that also have pledged financial support from organic industry partners.
The initiative will focus on increasing both the quantity and quality of organic growers’ production, quality and profitability, while helping them expand into growing international markets.
“By helping to increase the capacity of western organic growers to compete in the global organic food market, we are ensuring that the western Canadian economy can continue to grow and prosper,” said Michelle Rempel, minister of state for Western Economic Diversification in a release.
The organic food industry is the most dynamic and rapidly growing sector of the global food industry, and is estimated to be worth $63 billion (U.S.) globally.
The value of the Canadian organic food market has increased 300 per cent since 2006, and is now worth an estimated $3.7 billion. It continues to outpace other agri-food sectors, with 400 western Canadian small- and medium-size enterprises now adding value to the organic grains through further processing.
Yet, the number of Canadian farmers is not expanding. Certified organic growers represent just 1.8 per cent of all farms in Canada.
There simply aren’t enough producers keeping pace with this demand, said Organic Alberta executive director Becky Lipton.
“This project will support expansion of Canadian organic grain and field crops while simultaneously building resiliency and stability in the sector. By achieving increased quantity and quality we will not only meet the demand but be leaders in continued market expansion,” she said.
The Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI) will be housed by Organic Alberta, but is a partnership across the entire Prairie organic sector with Sask Organics and the Manitoba Organic Alliance, plus the Certified Organic Association of B.C., the Canadian Organic Trade Association, the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada and USC Canada through The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.
Industry support of just under $1 million for POGI is coming from grain buyers and processors of major organic brands such as Grain Millers, Nature’s Path, General Mills, Dave’s Killer Bread, Cliff Bar and others.
“We recognize the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative as a vital strategic step in helping keep pace with ever-increasing consumer demand, and we are pleased to invest in a strong future for the western Canadian organic sector,” said Rick Schwein, president, Grain Millers Canada Corp. in a news release.