University of Guelph agri-food experts Prof. Simon Somogyi and Prof. Evan Fraser provided input to the Canadian Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry on the value-added potential of the Canadian food sector.
The committee has just released its report Made in Canada: Growing Canada’s Value-Added Food Sector. Somogyi, the Arrell Chair in the Business of Food in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics, and Fraser, director of U of G’s Arrell Food Institute and Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security, are quoted in the report along with other Canadian academics and food industry insiders. The committee visited the U of G campus in March.
According to the report, Canada processes only about half of its agricultural output — an indication of how underdeveloped the food processing sector is in this country. There is a ready supply of primary products from which value can be added, it said.
In the report, Fraser said the Netherlands and Israel are models of countries that have implemented data collection systems for the food sector that have improved business decision-making. He argued that the Canadian sector needs to build information technology infrastructure “to ensure that Canadian food systems are transparent and cyber secure,” a measure that could improve food traceability from the farm to the store.
While there is a a dairy boom occurring in middle class markets in China, especially in products like infant formula, yogurt and fresh milk, Somogyi pointed out in the report that due to Canada’s supply managed sector, it is difficult or impossible to competitively export these products.
The report recommends improving food processing capacity, supporting innovation, lessening regulatory barriers and strengthening Canada’s global image to increase exports of Canadian food products.