Ontario unveils strategy to strengthen agri-food sector
By Government of Ontario
On Nov. 28, the Ontario government released its Grow Ontario Strategy. The strategy outlines the province’s plan to strengthen the agri-food sector, ensure an efficient, reliable and responsive food supply, and address ongoing vulnerabilities through new innovations. The sector’s vulnerabilities include labour shortages, outdated supply chain infrastructure and declining processing capacity.
“In these globally troubled times, few things are as critical to the well-being of Ontarians as a secure food supply,” said Christine Hogarth, MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. “This strategy will strengthen our supply chain while supporting our province’s all-important agri-food sector.”
“Investments in innovation and technology that increase production on-farm will help grain and oilseed farmers advance their contribution to food security and Ontario’s economy,” said Crosby Devitt, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario.
The plan focuses on three key priorities:
- Strengthen agri-food supply chain stability: Increase both the consumption and production of food grown and prepared in Ontario by 30 per cent, increase Ontario’s food and beverage manufacturing GDP by 10 per cent, and boost Ontario’s agri-food exports eight per cent annually by 2032. This includes opening applications for the $10 million Food Security and Supply Chain Fund, which will provide funding for projects such as updated inventory software, expanded warehousing to allow increased inventory levels or automation equipment to address labour gaps. The province is also strengthening its food processing capacity and food security to position the sector for growth through the $25 million Strategic Agri-Food Processing Fund.
- Increase agri-food technology and adoption: Boost research infrastructure, advance the uptake of new technologies, grow the market for Ontario innovative technologies domestically and globally, and grow the use of data to support efficiencies in the agri-food sector and value chain. The province will also begin consultations on modernizing the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario Act to fuel innovation and support efforts to provide modern, relevant research information to farmers and agri-food businesses.
- Attract and grow Ontario’s agri-food talent: Increase total agri-food sector employment by 10 per cent by 2032, as well as increase awareness of modern, high-tech agri-food careers, opportunities for mentorship and hands-on job training, and support efforts to increase veterinary capacity in underserviced areas of the province. This includes launching public consultations to explore opportunities to modernize the Veterinarians Act as part of the plan to increase access to veterinary care in Ontario.
“The Grow Ontario Strategy is our government’s plan to make sure the province’s food supply chain remains safe, strong and stable from farm to fork,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs. “This plan is a bold vision of pride and trust in the quality and quantity of food produced in Ontario, grown on the foundation of a competitive agri-food industry that serves the needs of Ontarians, Canadians and the world.”
The Grow Ontario Strategy was informed by the insights of farmers, Indigenous community representatives, food sector leaders and businesses. The government is also working to reduce duplication and unnecessary burden and is encouraging the agri-food sector to submit their best ideas to reduce legislative and regulatory barriers to help enable a stronger supply chain.
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