Canada’s Organic Industry Small, but Booming

Canada’s Organic Industry Small, but Booming

Winnipeg Free Press

By Laura Rance Published July 29, 2017

In the grand scheme of things, Canada’s organic industry is tiny, representing only about four per cent of an agriculture and food sector that generates about $108 billion annually.

But there aren’t many sub-straits of agriculture that can boast double-digit growth in annual sales, with no sign of slowing down.

A recent report released by the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) says the sector was worth $4.7 billion to the Canadian economy in 2015, up from $3.5 billion in 2013. That represents more than $1 billion in growth in just two years.

“Over 55 per cent of Canadian consumers purchase organic products on a weekly basis, and over 80 per cent of these consumers have maintained or increased their organic purchases in the last year,” the report released in early July says.

Not only is the sector thriving economically, it is also a key promoter of environmental sustainability and innovation, both of which are cited as key policy priorities by the federal government.

That’s a good news story by any definition. But the COTA report says the sector could be doing even better if not for some serious gaps in regulation, policy and extension support.

While farmers individually tend to rail against regulation as costly and time consuming, collectively they recognize that it’s a key pillar to growth in any industry — but especially for one that bases its success on public trust.

Consumers who buy organic products are usually paying a premium to get them. They are prepared to do that because they believe products produced organically are better for them and for the environment. The sector wants regulations to ensure that people…

It wants governments to invest in expanding and improving the data collected specifically on the organic sector, because it is a distinct area of production within agriculture. “Increased data collection and associated research capacities will lead to better decision making and planning within the organic sector,” it says.

Finally, it wants more organic-specific programs and policies that range between helping farmers transition into the business, to furthering market development activities.

It’s not a long wish list. But it’s an important one for a sector that’s gaining ground.

Laura Rance is editorial director for Glacier FarmMedia. She can be reached at [email protected] or 204-792-4382.