Canadian ministers coordinate to boost agricultural sector

by World Grain Staff
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CHARLOETTETOWN, PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND, CANADA —The Canadian Federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) agriculture ministers wrapped up their annual meeting on July 17 with commitments to ongoing coordinated activity to boost the competitiveness of a sector that generates over C$100 billion to Canada’s economy, representing close to 7% of gross domestic product (GDP) and one in eight jobs. Strong industry participation at the meeting underlined the importance of government-industry cooperation to ensure investments and priorities are aligned with the needs of the sector.

Ministers reaffirmed support for developing new markets around the world for Canadian products, including through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while continuing to preserve the integrity of the supply management system. Updates were provided on developments in Canada’s ambitious agricultural trade agenda which has resulted in trade agreements covering 38 countries and 44% of the world’s agriculture and agri-food markets. Recent developments include agreements with the E.U., South Korea and Ukraine.

"Agriculture continues to be a major driver of Canada’s economy. Continued federal-provincial-territorial collaboration is crucial to ensuring that billions in strategic investments translate into real benefits for our producers and processors through more innovation, improved competitiveness and access to new markets," said Gerry Ritz, federal agriculture minister and co-chair.

Ministers also discussed the importance of efficient transportation systems in order for Canada to be a reliable supplier of agriculture and agri-food products to customers around the world. Noting potential taxation implications, ministers underscored the importance of building markets in Canada and efforts to reduce interprovincial trade barriers, such as direct-to-consumer shipping of wine.

Ministers reaffirmed the importance of innovation, competitiveness and market development, which are areas of focus for Growing Forward 2, the C$3 billion FPT agricultural policy framework. Ministers agreed to further discuss the implications of how these areas of focus could be applied to a broader range of food products, such as seafood. Ministers also discussed the importance of continuing to review business risk management programs, and to facilitate the development of new industry-led products available for producers to manage their business risks.

Ministers discussed the significant contributions of the food and beverage processing sector, recognizing it as a strategic industry in Canada, and renewed their support for coordinated action through the FPT Food Processing Industry Development Forum.

Provincial and territorial ministers restated the vital importance of temporary foreign workers to the agri-food and seafood industries and discussed the implications of the changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Provincial and territorial ministers encouraged the federal government to continue discussions to evaluate the program changes in order to meet labor requirements.
Ministers discussed the fact that a healthy and sustainable agriculture sector depends both on bee health and on controlling pests. They agreed on the need for policies that are based on sound principles of science, which are internationally-recognized and respected.

Ministers agreed on the importance of continuing to work together with consumers and the agri-food sector on maintaining trust in Canada’s food system. They discussed social license and public confidence in the products and processes in agriculture and food, noting the extensive efforts throughout the supply chain to adhere to the highest standards of food safety and sustainable production practices.

They reaffirmed their support for continued review and modernization of science-based regulations for food safety, animal health and welfare, and plant health and emphasized the importance of an outcome-based framework. Ministers also stressed the importance of the quality of Canadian and imported products (reciprocity of standards) and the strict controls to which all foods are subject.

"I’m pleased with the level of discussion among our jurisdictions and the priorities we have outlined moving forward. Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and its continued sustainability and profitability relies on the continued collaboration and partnership of our jurisdictions. Working together we will continue to provide effective support to our Canadian agriculture industry so that it can continue to innovate and thrive," said Alan McIsaac, Prince Edward Island minister of agriculture and fisheries and co-chair.

Ministers discussed their growing concern about recent challenges with food and farm tampering, which is a criminal offense. Provisions under the Safe Food for Canadians Act will provide the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with explicit authority to take enforcement actions against persons who tamper with or threaten to tamper with food commodities.

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