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Ontario agri-food exports soar

In 2011, exports of Ontario agri-food reached a record high of $10 billion, helping give the economy a needed boost and creating jobs during difficult times. The provincial Mcguinty government stated in a press release that Ontario exports to the United States, Asia and Europe have increased by 5.4 percent since 2010, which accounts for 22 percent of all Canadian exports.

Ontario currently employs 10,000 people in over 3,000 businesses in agriculture and agri-food related businsses, and Susan Murray, the senior communications advisor for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) says that such growth shows great resilience.

"Since the start of the economic downturn in 2008, Ontario has had only one year of very minor flat-to-negative growth in food, beverage and agricultural exports," she says. "The economic resilience of the sector in combination with strong continuing demand for both commodities and value-added foods contributed strongly to single digit growth each of the last two years."

While this growth shows a very encouraging trend, such growth needs to be grown to even greater heights, which is exactly what OMAFRA is doing through education, market research and help exporters identify markets of interest. All of these programs can help potential exporters navigate the difficult path of exporting food to foregin countries, says Murray.

"Our UK Retailer Engagement strategy is a great, focused example of that, with OMAFRA staff working closely between customers such as ASDA (WalMart's operation in the UK) and Ontario suppliers that can meet stringent market demands (like the British Retail Consortium's food safety certification standards) to develop new supply relationship in a market not known to be easy to enter."

Through OMAFRA's committment, as well as with producers and processors in the agri-food industry, Ontario will continue to grow in other markets beyond our US neighbours. Murray notes that while the United States still accounts for approximately 77 percent of Canada's total food exports, exports to markets beyond the US have doubled to over $2 billion.

"We're seeing success in traditional markets like Japan, but also specific examples of companies gaining new sales in a variety of other markets such as China, South East Asia and the United Arab Emirates."


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