On May 4, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food released a report entitled “Room to Grow: Strengthening Food Processing Capacity in Canada for Food Security and Exports”. The report was a result of a months long study of Canada’s food processing sector, in which FBC-ABC CEO Kathleen Sullivan, and a number of FBC’s Members participated.
Recognizing that food and beverage processing is Canada’s second-largest manufacturing sector and largest manufacturing employer, the Committee made 18 recommendations to help the sector reach its full potential.
FBC-ABC was especially pleased to see the following recommendations:
- RECOMMENDATION 1: That the Government of Canada invest in trade infrastructure, such as transportation systems, to improve access to markets and support a modern supply chain.
- RECOMMENDATION 2: That the Government of Canada modernize its regulations and implement targeted programs, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, to encourage the development of local processing businesses and regional small-scale abattoirs.
- RECOMMENDATION 3: That the Government of Canada, in collaboration with provinces and territories and the private sector, identify strategic funding opportunities to address regional processing capacity to strengthen Canada’s agri-food supply chain.
- RECOMMENDATION 6: That the Government of Canada conduct an external review of its regulations in order to modernize them, streamline approvals and remove barriers to bringing new solutions to market, without compromising food safety, by involving organizations like the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
- RECOMMENDATION 10: That the Government of Canada encourage the development of private-sector led innovation hubs, such as superclusters, to raise agri-food productivity and connect start-ups with established companies and university research centers.
- RECOMMENDATION 11: That the Government of Canada make the agri-food sector a priority for attracting foreign direct investment and to conduct research and development in Canada while preserving and promoting domestic ownership of food processing enterprises.
- RECOMMENDATION 12: That the Government of Canada increase and facilitate access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and raise the cap on the proportion of low-wage positions under the Program for food processing industries from the current rate of 10%, taking into account different regional and sectoral needs, and that it do so without limiting access to workers under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). The Government should also provide for food processor eligibility to the SAWP for their temporary labour needs.
- RECOMMENDATION 13: The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada evaluate the results of the Agri-Food Pilot program and consider increasing access to it in order to address labour shortages in the agri-food sector.
- RECOMMENDATION 14: The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada support innovative approaches to skills development and encourage training and reskilling programs to meet the current and future labour requirements of agri-food businesses, and also help to promote and to raise awareness of career opportunities in the agri-food sector with a focus on future generations, while respecting agreements signed with provincial and territorial governments and their jurisdiction.
- RECOMMENDATION 15: The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada support innovation through programs or financial tools for access to automation-based research and development in the agri-food sector as well as prioritize expansion of Internet access to rural areas where food producers and processors are often located.
We echo the Committee’s concluding remarks, that targeted investments in infrastructure and skilled workers, combined with prudent revisions of regulatory measures, have the potential to make Canada a more innovative and competitive country. We welcome seeing the Government’s response to this important report, and hope that officials take these recommendations to heart.