New regulations would grow the value-added food sector

Only about half of the food grown in Canada is processed here

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Canada should expand the value-added food sector by improving regulations to allow for the expansion of international trade of processed food products, investing in innovation, and reducing the barriers to growth inside its borders, a Senate committee said.

The value-added food sector takes raw agricultural products, like apples or hemp fibre, and transforms them into something else, like cider or cat litter. Currently, only about half of the food grown in Canada is processed here, demonstrating a gap the committee believes should be closed.

The Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry is recommending regulatory changes that maintain Canada’s brand of quality and safety while expanding its reach to international markets. It recommends updates for the Canada Food Inspection Agency and Canada Border Services.

It also recommends investing in research and development and using existing mechanisms to support innovation in the sector, including grants, rebates and superclusters, to encourage the launch or growth of businesses that manufacture value-added products.

Barriers to growth within Canada’s borders should also be resolved. The government should look to harmonize trucking regulations and reduce trade barriers between provinces and territories, improve transportation networks across the country and rectify the industry-wide labour shortage. There are 59,000 positions currently vacant in the industry. To help fill them, the committee recommends expediting the path of temporary foreign workers to permanent residency when they comply with the program.