Funding for value-added food processors

The Manitoba Food Processors Association is getting $440,000 in funds to assist with commercializing new products and expand food manufacturing in Manitoba.

“Here in Manitoba and across the country, the food-processing industry delivers a lot to the Canadian economy and it deserves our support,” said Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz in announcing the funding at Ag Days.

Manitoba’s value-added food sector was worth $3.6 billion in 2010, and is the largest manufacturing segment in the province, said Ritz.

Two-thirds of the funding will pay for resource planning tools and the consultation services of a business development co-ordinator to help entrepreneurs launch new valued-added food-processing businesses. The co-ordinator will work with a board comprised of specialists in product development, marketing, distribution, and business management, to determine a business’s development needs before drafting a marketing strategy.

The second investment of $141,666 will allow the Manitoba Food Processors Association to study the concept, feasibility and optimal development of a service centre designed to enhance the existing functional food and nutraceuticals research, processing and commercialization capacity available in the province.

The centre, involving a partnership deal between the association, the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals, and the University of Manitoba food sciences department, would also assist entrepreneurs with commercialization and marketing activities, while serving as a hub for the development of new research and packaging technologies in the province.

There are about 300 food-processing companies in the province, ranging from small startups to giants such as Maple Leaf Foods, which collectively employ about 12,000 workers, said Dave Shambrock, MFPA executive director.

“Each and every year, food manufacturers purchase about 50 per cent of what our farmers produce for further processing,” said Shambrock.

“While that’s impressive, I think there’s a lot more to be gained for our economy and our producers if we work to higher levels of value-added processing.”

A portion of the new funding will be used to create controlled environment growth chambers to study potentially lucrative bioactive compounds found in Manitoba crops, as well as a nutritional research unit conducting clinical trials to test their efficacy in everyday foods.

Funding for both projects will come from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program, a five-year, $163-million initiative that helps the Canadian agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive.

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