Life Food

Canada must revamp food sector: Think-tank

QMI AGENCY

Canada's food sector is losing relevance, profitability and quality, a new report says.

The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI), a nonpartisan think-thank, released a report calling for a total rethinking of Canada's food production and policies.

The report sets out three goals for Canada to reach by 2025.

The first of the so-called "75 by 25" goals is to increase the dollar value of Canada's agrifood exports from $38.8 billion to $75 billion by 2025.

Canada is losing status as a food exporter, the report says. Once the third-largest food exporter in the world, Canada now ranks seventh, behind countries like Brazil. What's more, the country imports 50% more food now than it did in 2000.

As a result, Canada is missing a major opportunity because global food demand is expected to rise 70% by 2050 as the Earth's population exceeds nine billion.

But in order to regain its status as a major food exporter, Canada must also make environmental policy changes. CAPI's second goal is for Canada to rely on biomaterials and biofuels in 75% of the agrifood sector by 2025.

Canada needs to step up to the plate, the report urges, by investing more money in food-and agriculture-related research and development. That way, it can find more sustainable ways to produce and export food.

As the population spikes, so will energy demand, and food production dependent on fossil fuels will no longer be feasible.

As well, Canada needs to find ways to prevent climate change from wreaking havoc on food production.

Desertification of the Prairies, for example, is cited as major concern.

The think-tank is calling on Canada to produce and supply 75% of its own food by 2050, up from 68% currently. That will make the industry more sustainable and make food healthier, the report says.

Canada needs to look inward and work with researchers and government to make sure food in the country is safe and healthy, CAPI urges.

High rates of obesity and heart disease will be a drain on the health-care system, and most of these problems can be tackled by introducing a healthier diet.

A huge part of making food in Canada healthier, the report suggests, is to make it local.

To achieve the three "75 by 25" goals, Canada must change how it thinks about the food industry, forgetting about sectors, value chains and product lines, and instead focusing on "food systems" and all the players involved, CAPI said.

Farmers, distributors, retailers, government and consumers must all work together to ensure Canada makes the highest quality food possible, the report says.

"We need all participants in the agri-food sector and all those involved in food to step up to the plate. The opportunity is clear. We need consumers here and abroad to choose Canadian food. We want investors to choose Canada."