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Releasing the Canadian Food Strategy: Addressing Challenges and Leveraging Opportunities in Canada’s Food Sector

Mar 04, 2014
Michael Bloom Michael Bloom
Vice-President, Industry and Business Strategy

Canada is blessed with abundant natural resources that have already made us a highly successful food producer and exporter, increasing the size of our economy and giving jobs to hundreds of thousands. The future holds much promise for the food sector as it feeds Canada and finds new opportunities around the world—global markets are filling with customers who can afford richer diets, more protein, and more calories that Canada can supply.

The food sector already contributes more than 8 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product, but it can become even larger if our producers capture a share of the growing international food market. Canada’s food sector has the potential to be among the foremost export industries for Canada, since world-wide demand will continue to rise for decades and few other countries have the potential capacity to satisfy the needs of these burgeoning markets. If we choose so, Canada can move from being a top-20 net food exporter to being among the top five food-exporting powers of the world—a global food superpower.

At the same time, domestic opportunities abound. Canadians seek new foods to improve and sustain their health. Multi-billion-dollar niche markets are growing for natural, organic, local, ethnic, and convenience foods. Canadians also expect more from their food experiences—tastes are changing and people wish to consume a diverse, varied, and interesting diet. They want, and expect, all this from a system that ensures their collective safety in all that they consume and safeguards the environment, including soil, water, and air, for future generations.

Yet, there is some dissatisfaction with our food system. People worry that food might not be safe, that foods and food ingredients might have negative health impacts, food production might negatively affect the environment, nutritious food might not be accessible to everyone, and that the food industry in Canada might not be prosperous—or even viable—in the long term.

Further, past approaches to food opportunities and issues have largely been made in isolation—tactical rather than strategic—limiting their impact and value. At the root of the problem is the lack of a shared national vision for food that promotes collaboration to achieve widely shared economic, social, and environmental goals—the Canadian Food Strategy is designed to address this.

The Conference Board’s Centre for Food in Canada (CFIC) will be releasing the Canadian Food Strategy: a comprehensive, action-oriented framework to guide and stimulate change in food and the food system, and achieve the substantial advances wished for by Canadians. Its five key elements are industry prosperity, healthy food, food safety, household food security, and environmental sustainability.

The Strategy focuses on how collectively, as well as individually, we can make substantial progress in addressing the wide range of challenges facing us and make the most of our plentiful opportunities in the food sector. It is intentionally aspirational, driven by an optimism about our future—but it is an optimism tested empirically against the reality of our capacities and our judgments about this country’s potential. Developed through a process that involved 20 major research studies and wide consultation with experts, stakeholders, and the public, the Strategy finds many points of connection and common interest across the broad food system and beyond.

The Canadian Food Strategy is being released at the 3rd Canadian Food Summit: From Strategy to Action, which takes place March 18–19, 2014, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This major international two-day summit is bringing together hundreds of food stakeholders to explore the future of food in Canada and ways to implement the actions recommended in the Canadian Food Strategy.

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