Canadian Organic Growers’ project seeks to build Made-in-Canada supply chains

In Ontario, a product or business does not need to be certified to use the word ‘organic’ as a descriptor, provided it isn’t traded across provincial boundaries and/or doesn’t tote the Canada Organic Logo. MPPs Tabuns and Jones are looking to change that. (Photo: Organic Council of Ontario)

Much of the Canadian demand for organics is met by imported products. To address this, the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) is launching a federally-funded project to help get more Canadian consumers buying organics produced locally by Canadian organic farmers.

With a grant of $640,000, COG will develop a strategy to identify and find solutions to organic supply chain barriers so that “Canadian organic producers can realize their full economic potential and more Canadian consumers can buy locally produced Canadian organic food,” according to a press release.

The funding is through the Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP), a $50.3 million, five-year program to help the agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive.

Annual retail sales of certified organic products in Canada are approximately $6.38 billion, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Sales have increased by almost $3 billion since 2012, with imported organic goods accounting for $789 million in 2019. The top imported organic products include coffee, bananas, and strawberries. Other imported organic products include blueberries, spinach and tomatoes.

Related: Organic industry receives nearly $1 million to create Canadian organic brand

“As we stand at the juncture of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, the launch of this collaborative, industry-wide project is vital for Canadians. Gaining an understanding of the barriers that exist between organic farmers and consumers will help the organic industry meet the growing demand for organic food in Canada and abroad, and play a prominent role in Canada’s economic recovery. This project will also help Canada advance action on climate change through its support for sustainable agriculture practices and the Canadian farmers on the front lines of the climate crisis,” says Gillian Flies, president, Canadian Organic Growers Board of Directors.

The project will produce strategy recommendations, and a final report will be published that will explore investment opportunities to meet domestic demands and recommendations on how to best seize the opportunities. The report will also help quantify the economic and environmental benefits of increasing domestic organic production and supply chains, and will be assessed and evaluated by an independent industry-wide national advisory committee.

“Demand for organic food is growing rapidly and we want to ensure that it is Canadian producers who are benefitting from that increased demand. Our government is focused on ensuring Canadians have greater self-sufficiency and sustainability in our food supply system, and this investment in the organic sector strategy will help us get there,” says Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Approximately 5,800 certified organic and transitional producers are working on 3.3 million acres of land in Canada.

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