By Jackie Kelly-Pemberton
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
The numbers might be a few years old, but a recent Statistics Canada report confirms the significant economic contributions made by our agriculture and food industry. Statistics Canada data released last month reports on economic numbers from 2015, but it demonstrates the importance of the overall agricultural industry to the Canadian economy.
According to the Agriculture and Economic Food Account, 2015, the agriculture and agri-food manufacturing sector contributed $49 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015, accounting for 2.6 percent of the country’s total GDP. Breaking down the numbers, the report shows primary agriculture and agri-food processing are nearly equal contributors to GDP for the sector.
The economic importance of the agri-food sector varies by province, with Ontario’s agriculture and agri-food manufacturing GDP contribution ranking highest in the country at $15.3 billion in 2015. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) also released updated provincial numbers on our sector’s economic contributions, reporting provincial agri-food GDP contributions at $47.7 billion. This number, a true representation of field to fork, includes primary agriculture production, food processing, retail and food service. Adding to the impressive contribution of agriculture to Ontario’s economy is OMAFRA’s agri-food employment report, stating 873,064 jobs are directly linked to agriculture and food.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) has maintained for years that agriculture is an economic engine in our province. Often overshadowed by the automotive or technology sectors, agriculture and food has been and will continue to be a solid economic contributor to Ontario and Canada. And there’s huge potential to grow. With proper public investments, Ontario farmers, food processors and industry related businesses can push those GDP and employment numbers even higher.
OFA’s Producing Prosperity in Ontario campaign outlines how distributed economic development dollars can be invested in Ontario’s agri-food and rural Ontario communities to produce greater prosperity for the province. Investing in affordable energy sources, like natural gas, reliable broadband so everyone in Ontario can conduct business and learn at the same speeds, solid roads and bridges for our equipment to travel on and take our products to market, and a rural school system for our children will all pay off. The returns on these investments will be new jobs, more affordable communities as rural areas will become more attractive to those living in cities with over-priced housing, a secure and sustainable food system and overall economic prosperity for all Ontarians.
This strategy of supporting growth opportunities in the agriculture and food sectors goes beyond our province, and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is taking this campaign to the national level as part of their federal election campaign – Producing Prosperity in Canada.
There’s a lot of potential in our sector, as farmers, we see that firsthand. And sometimes the number speak for themselves.