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Report considers the future of Ontario’s agri-food sector

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) has released a new report, presenting a series of recommendations to address barriers to the competitiveness of the province’s agri-food sector.


October 5, 2016
By Ontario Chamber of Commerce

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The report, titled Fertile Ground: Growing the Competitiveness of Ontario’s Agri-food Sector, identified agri-food as one of the most significant economic drivers in the province, employing one in nine Ontarians and representing $36.4 billion in gross domestic product.

To build on the strengths of this sector, in 2013 Premier Kathleen Wynne challenged the agri-food industry to double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by 2020. However, OCC reported farmers and food processors’ ability to meet this 2020 target continues to be challenged by an overly prescriptive regulatory environment.

The report presents recommendations to business and government designed to enhance the economic environment in which agribusinesses currently operate.

“Agri-food stakeholders have indicated that regulatory pressures are inhibiting their ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace,” said Allan O’Dette, president and chief executive officer of the OCC, in a press release. “In fact, the food processing component of the Ontario government’s Red Tape Challenge has identified over 170 regulations that need to be updated. While this effort begins a conversation, more work needs to be done to ensure that these industries are able to continue to create jobs and grow the economy.”

Among the 15 recommendations presented in the report, the OCC identifies three as priorities to be addressed in the short term:

  • Work with industry and all levels of government to establish a regulatory “concierge service” to assist industry in understanding, navigating and achieving compliance with relevant regulatory requirements.
  • Publicly release economic impact assessments of policy initiatives that could affect the agri-food sector to ensure decision-making is evidence-based, participatory, unbiased and transparent.
  • Work with industry and post-secondary institutions to ensure program offerings remain responsive to the needs of agricultural producers and processors.

In order to attract, retain and grow agribusiness, the OCC is calling for government to work collaboratively with the agri-food sector to set goals for Agriculture Week 2017 that support the industry in meeting the Premier’s Agri-food Challenge.