In Vancouver, with representatives of the national food processing industry associations in attendance, the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), launched (24 Jan) the Industry-Government Food Processing Action Plan and kicked off a pilot project to actively promote the high-quality foods that Canadian farmers and food processors produce.
“Our government recognizes the importance of the food processing industry, which employs nearly 300,000 Canadians and contributes significantly to the Canadian economy,” said Minister Blackburn. “Together with the Canadian food processing industry, we have developed an action plan to improve the competitiveness and growth potential of this important sector.”
“Industry is very pleased and encouraged that Minister Blackburn has taken the initiative to recognize the importance of the food processing sector and the need to address the challenges facing our sector,” said Ted Johnston, the President of the Alberta Food Processors Association and industry co-chair of the Food Processors Competitiveness Working Group. “Many issues remain that will affect the long-term success of food processing in Canada, but we are positive that this important first step will continue to move the industry forward.”
Identify challenges facing the sector
The “Growing the Canadian Food Processing Sector – An Industry-Government Action Plan” was developed jointly by government and industry through roundtables with the processing industry held in 2009 and 2010 by Minister Blackburn to identify the challenges facing the sector and find solutions to enable it to grow and strengthen its competitive capacity. The actions in the Plan target four key areas of economics, market access, innovation and the regulatory environment. Far from static, most of the actions recommended in the Plan are expected to be completed over the next 12 months. The actions are wide ranging, including research studies, policy and program reviews, and the development of new initiatives to improve the competitiveness of the sector.
In response to one of the recommendations to promote Canadian products, Minister Blackburn announced the launch of a pilot project at Stong’s Market highlighting Canadian food products. Throughout the store, Canadian foods are identified through banners, signs, on-shelf displays, in-store and online retail flyers. The initiative’s goal is to help consumers identify Canadian food products and encourage them to buy and Eat Canadian.
“Our government invests significant resources in promoting Canada’s agriculture and food sector, both internationally and domestically, as a reliable supplier of quality products. Initiatives like the Action Plan and in-store promotions will help Canadian producers and processors improve their competitiveness in the domestic market, resulting in more profits for farmers,” explained Minister Blackburn, adding that a similar in-store pilot was recently held in Ottawa, and the next one will be in Newfoundland in the coming weeks.
The information learned from these pilots, as well as from an online simulated shopping study, will help determine how to better promote Canadian products in stores and will inform other initiatives to support Canadian agriculture.