Ontario Chamber of Commerce Lays the Groundwork to Ensure the Future Competitiveness of the Provincial Agri-food Sector in New Report

TORONTO, Oct. 5, 2016 /CNW/ - Today, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) released the report Fertile Ground: Growing the Competitiveness of Ontario's Agri-food Sector, which presents a series of recommendations designed to address barriers to the competitiveness of the agri-food sector in the province. As one of the most significant economic drivers in the province, the agri-food industry employs 1 in 9 Ontarians and represents $36.4 billion in GDP.

Eager to build on the strengths of this sector, in 2013 Premier Wynne challenged the agri-food industry to double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 jobs by 2020. However, farmers and food processors' ability to meet this 2020 target continues to be challenged by an overly prescriptive regulatory environment. Released during Ontario Agricultural Week, the OCC's report presents recommendations to business and government designed to enhance the economic environment in which agribusinesses currently operate.

"Agri-food stakeholders have indicated that regulatory pressures are inhibiting their ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace," said Allan O'Dette, President & CEO of the OCC. "In fact, the Food Processing component of the Ontario government's Red Tape Challenge has identified over 170 regulations that need to be updated. While this effort begins a conversation, more work needs to be done to ensure that these industries are able to continue to create jobs and grow the economy."

Among the 15 recommendations presented in the report, the OCC identifies the following three as priorities to be addressed in the short term:

  1. Work with industry and all levels of government to establish a regulatory "concierge service" to assist industry in understanding, navigating and achieving compliance with relevant regulatory requirements. 
  2. Publicly release economic impact assessments of policy initiatives that could affect the agri-food sector to ensure decision-making is evidence-based, participatory, unbiased and transparent.
  3. Work with industry and post-secondary institutions to ensure that program offerings remain responsive to the needs of agricultural producers and processors.

"From farm to table, all aspects of the agri-food sector are interconnected. The health and viability of the entire industry depends on the ability of producers and processors to compete on a level playing field," adds O'Dette. "In 2015, Ontario agri-food trade exceeded $14 billion. The Province must strive to do its part to enable the success of Ontario's agri-food sector."

In order to attract, retain and grow agribusiness, the OCC is looking for government to work collaboratively with the agri-food sector to set goals for Agriculture Week 2017 that support the industry in meeting the Premier's Agri-food Challenge. The OCC is committed to working with government and agribusinesses to enhance the competitiveness of this sector.

SOURCE Ontario Chamber of Commerce

For further information: Media Contact: Michelle Kelly, Senior Communications Advisor, Ontario Chamber of Commerce, t. (416) 482-5220 ext. 2410, e. michellekelly@occ.ca

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