The Premier's Agri-Food Challenge: Building on Success
The agri-food sector is a major player in Ontario's economy. It currently generates $34 billion a year in gross domestic product (GDP) and sustains 740,000 jobs - about one in every nine jobs across the province.
The industry includes a wide spectrum of businesses - farms and food processing plants, distributors, retailers and restaurants. It also includes companies making non-food products from agricultural sources, such as bioplastics and biodiesel.
Over the past decade, even when other parts of Ontario's economy experienced a downturn, Ontario's agri-food sector has registered growth, at an average of about one per cent a year.
Kathleen Wynne, Ontario's Premier and Minister of Agriculture and Food, wants to build on the success story that is the agri-food sector, and is committed to highlighting its importance to Ontario's economy.
She has challenged the industry to double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by the year 2020.
"I want you to see yourselves as I see you: as a major player in Ontario's economy, a driving force that has the support of our government."
To meet this challenge, the agri-food sector will have to leverage its many strengths to take advantage of emerging opportunities at home and abroad.
Developing Domestic and Foreign Markets
In 2012, Ontario imported $19.8 billion in agri-food products. Ontario needs to create more demand for - and access to - homegrown food and keep jobs and dollars in our communities. We also need to satisfy the changing tastes and values of Ontario consumers with products such as world crops, organics, foods with added health benefits, artisan and specialty goods.
Last year, Ontario's food exports hit a record high of $10.8 billion. Including more agri-food delegates in overseas trade missions has already had positive results. Ontario's mission to China in January 2013 resulted in the signing of dairy product agreements valued at $680 million. Ontario companies will also expand the demand for our exports by continuing to develop unique "private label" retail products that have become highly sought after by the U.S. market.
Ontario's bioproduct companies have generated approximately $832 million in gross revenue; however, the global market potential is estimated to be in the tens of billions. Ontario is well-positioned to grow because of our biobased feedstock supply, manufacturing capacity, infrastructure, R&D and skilled workforce.
Collaborating for Success
Accelerating the growth of the agri-food sector requires collaboration between government and industry, as well as a strategic approach to achieve common goals. This is good for business and good for Ontario.
"If we work together, there is no reason why we cannot solidify our position as a world leader in food production."
While growth leadership must come from industry, the Premier is committed to a whole-of-government approach to supporting the sector, working across ministry lines and, where necessary, across levels of government.
Work on responding to the Premier's Challenge was kick-started at the Premier's Agri-Food Summit on October 7, 2013, where industry leaders were asked to begin identifying actions that will foster growth in the sector.
To assist in this over the longer term, the government is expanding the mandate of the Open for Business Consultation Forum beyond regulations to all aspects of economic growth in the sector.
The government is looking forward to continuing this discussion around opportunities, growth and jobs in the weeks and months to come. At next year's Premier's Summit, success will be measured by concrete outcomes and inspiring success stories.
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