Premier's Summit on Agri-Food:
Summary of the Facilitated Discussions
October 7, 2013
The following is a summary of the discussions of industry leaders
during the small group facilitated sessions at the 2013 Premier's
Overall, industry leaders supported the Premier's challenge to
double the growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs by 2020. Industry
leaders acknowledged that it would require industry action to move
forward in meeting the challenge. Many participants commented on
the need for industry to take leadership and develop the sector
goals and actions moving forward.
Industry leaders were asked to comment on proposed scorecard indicators
and targets that the government had developed. Leaders asked that
there be more information provided on what each measure includes
(i.e. what was included in the calculation) and how they contribute
to economic success or are connected to each other. Participants
generally agreed with the proposed indicators as a starting point,
but had the following comments:
- Bioeconomy - The "number of companies"
as a measure is limited. Revenue would be a better measure of
the health of the sector if valid data could be acquired.
- Agricultural Investment - The target is too
low to capitalize on the opportunities for Ontario farmers.
- Food Processing Investment - An indicator is
needed that accounts for the value added, more specifically, the
percentage of product bought from Ontario farmers for food processing
Additional Scorecard Indicators
Participants were then asked to provide their input on additional
indicators that may be useful for the sector, they suggested the
- Imports - As perhaps an indicator of import
- Employment - Participants agreed on the need
for an employment indicator. They did note that there is a shift
toward the use of technology to improve productivity and reduce
costs that may impact overall employment numbers. Jobs done by
foreign workers should also be taken into account, in addition
to capturing how they contribute to jobs in Ontario. The employment
indicators need to capture the quality of jobs that are created
(i.e. minimum wage or high paying). Perhaps the level of education
or technical expertise; average income; or related jobs outside
the agri-food sector should also be measured. Employment goals
would also be difficult without a substantial increase in revenues.
Other Suggested Indicators - Productivity, profitability
There was also some thought as to whether or not the benchmarks
could include comparisons to other regions.
Strategies for Achieving Growth
Industry leaders were asked about efforts that could be undertaken
to develop strategies for achieving the overall growth target. Leaders
made the following comments:
- Tiered Strategy - The strategy needs to be
tiered, from a provincial level to a sub-sector level.
- Focus - Sectors will need to have focused strategies
to drive both industry and government support.
- Sector Measures - Industry leaders asked for
the government to provide a template that allows each sector to
identify its own indicators and targets and identify ways that
government can help. Once completed, the template would be shared
- Government to Manage Scorecard - The government
would continue to develop and track the scorecard indicators over
- Regulatory Challenge - Regulatory approvals
continue to be a challenge for the industry as they work with
a number of government ministries.
- Whole of Government Approach - A whole of government
approach will be needed to address regulatory challenges, provide
access to markets, attract new investment, develop a consistent
brand and develop the labour skills needed for the industry.
- Partnership - A strengthened partnership between
industry and government is needed with a longer term perspective
- Awareness - Greater government knowledge and
understanding of the industry is needed and industry and companies
must explore the programs available that can help them succeed.
- Education - There is a need to have more educational
programs for the public (particularly for young people) beyond
Foodland Ontario that teaches about eating healthily, local food
and food preparation. This will help with growing local producers'
share of the domestic market. It is also important to consider
a strategy to develop skilled workers (e.g. through apprenticeship)
who are interested in working in the agri-food and products sector.
- Branding - It is important to continue to brand
Ontario produce and processed products that contain Ontario ingredients.
Internationally, Ontario should use the Canada brand rather than
trying to promote an Ontario brand.
- Investment in Infrastructure - Investments
in infrastructure will need to continue (e.g. high speed internet,
natural gas to the north, electricity, highways/transit, water
Moving forward industry leaders highlighted some of challenges
for the sector:
- Sector Strategies - Each sector has its own
issues and related strategies. Participants questioned how these
strategies would come together to create broader action plans
that will allow the entire sector to advance and who will lead
- Infrastructure and Competitiveness - There
is a need to determine if the right infrastructure is in place
and how the costs for businesses (e.g. regulations, input costs,
energy, labour) compare with other regions.
- Regulated Marketing - There is a need to discuss
building greater flexibility into regulated marketing, including
supply management, to take advantage of growing market opportunities.
- Human Resources Development - There needs to
be a long term strategy around agri-food sector career awareness
and skills development.
- Environment that Supports Innovation - The
sector has to become better at identifying areas where the regulatory
environment provides advantages to the industry.
- Sustainability - We need to look at all aspects
of sustainability - environmental, social, regional and economic.
- Research and Innovation - The agri-food sector
is underutilizing existing research and development programs.
Currently, there is no collective pool of resources to assist
businesses with finding supports for innovation, or a clearing-house
for innovative ideas - this could be built virtually.
- Retail Environment - The retail sector environment
leads to pressure on producers and processors due to volume requirements,
low price expectations and responding to consumer demand on animal
Role of Government
- Enabler - Industry leaders agreed that government's
role is to bring relevant stakeholders together and provides support
but should not lead sector growth - that is a private sector responsibility.
- Economic Environment - Government can also
provide the right environment for investment and competitiveness
(e.g. skills training, regulation) so that businesses can then
work towards meeting the targets.
- Sector Templates - Government can also provide
a template to assist industry with developing strategies including
benchmarks and targets.
Role of Industry
Industry leaders commented on the many voices and unique cultures
of each sector.
- Supply Chain Approach - Supply chains (producer,
processors and retailers) need to come together to develop a common
vision and strategies that can be used to elicit government support.
- Independent Intermediary - Industry leaders
raised the possibility of developing an independent intermediary
that brings all the parties together and that the government can
listen to. The intermediary would also provide industry accountability
for what is committed to.
*The statements summarized and captured in the documents are based
on notes taken at the Premier's Summit on October 7, 2013. Every
effort has been made to capture comments comprehensively. The document
should not be read as a transcript of the day.