The Grow Ontario Strategy hopes to increase the production of food grown and consumed in the province.
By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com; Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
Ontario seeks to construct a stronger and more secure food supply chain with the release of its Grow Ontario Strategy.
This strategy details the provincial plan to not only strengthen the agri-food sector, but to ensure an efficient, reliable, and responsive food supply while addressing ongoing vulnerabilities through innovations.
As with other industries, our ag sector faces similar vulnerabilities of labour shortages, outdated supply chain infrastructure, and declining processing capacity.
Employing over 750,000 people—about one-in-ten jobs in the province—our 48,346 Ontario farms produce over 200 different commodities.The province’s agri-food sector contributes $47 billion in GDP to the Ontario economy, representing 6.4 percent of the total Ontario GDP (gross domestic product). Food and beverage processing is the province’s largest manufacturing sector in terms of GDP and one of the largest in North America. The Grow Ontario Strategy goal is to increase food and beverage GDP by 10 percent by 2032.
“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,” explained Lisa Thompson, the Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). “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.”
Three key priorities of the Grow Ontario Strategy:
- Strengthen Agri-food Supply Chain Stability: Increase both the consumption and production of food grown and prepared in Ontario by 30 percent, increase Ontario’s food and beverage manufacturing GDP by 10 percent and boost Ontario’s agri-food exports by eight percent 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's 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: The province aims to increase total agri-food sector employment by 10 percent 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 an important part of Less Red Tape, Stronger Ontario, our fall red tape reduction package to strengthen provincial supply chains and improve competitiveness,” explained Parm Gill, the Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Red Tape Reduction. “We’re stepping up our efforts to work directly with Ontarians to remove red tape and regulatory barriers across government, so people can thrive and businesses can prosper.”
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.
“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 (Member of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario) for Etobicoke-Lakeshore. “This strategy will strengthen our supply chain while supporting our province’s all-important agri-food sector.”