There’s a big, hungry world out there with Canadian farmers and food producers ready to feed it — but federal government assistance to gain access to foreign markets is crucial to their success, a Senate committee said in a report released Tuesday, May 9, 2017.
“A little help from the federal government could mean the world to Canada’s farmers and food producers,” Senator Ghislain Maltais, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, said at the launch of the committee’s report, Market Access: Giving Canadian Farmers and Processors the World.
The report makes 18 recommendations that come after an extensive two-year study of Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector and its potential for international growth. Canada exports more than half of its farm and food products, but the agriculture and agri-food sector represents just 6.6% of the country’s gross domestic product.
The committee believes the federal government should pursue more multilateral trade agreements and create a national committee to monitor the non-tariff barriers that prevent Canadian farmers and food producers from selling their wares in foreign markets.
“Better access to foreign markets would help this sector of the Canadian economy grow, become more profitable, create more jobs and stimulate spending in other areas of the economy,” said Senator Terry Mercer, deputy chair of the committee.
At home, the government can take measures to make the sector more competitive and productive by providing better access to grants for farmers and food producers who want to invest in new technologies, and by improving the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to address a sector-wide labour shortage.
The committee also called on the government to work with the provinces and territories to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers that can make it harder for a Canadian farmer to sell into a different province than to sell to a foreign country.
The committee consulted with 500 witnesses and stakeholders between 2014 and 2017.
Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector exports more than half of what it produces. In a competitive global market, Canadian farmers and farmers rank fifth in agriculture exports and 11th in agri-food exports.
Strengthening Canada’s economy is a high priority for senators. While the removal of internal barriers that prevent trade among provinces and territories is one of the Senate agriculture committee’s recommendations, the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce did a comprehensive study of that issue in 2016. The government adopted the recommendations that committee made in its June 2016 report, Tear Down These Walls: Dismantling Canada’s Internal Trade Barriers.
In April 2017, the federal government and provincial and territorial governments announced the Canada Free Trade Agreement, a deal aimed at removing barriers that had prevented the free flow of goods among provinces and territories.