Can we Compete?
Is a national food strategy worth the effort?
In my articles, I have spoken at length about the need for a national strategy for the food industry in Canada. Much needs to be done. A lot of work would be necessary on the part of people involved with the food industry – so much work that some must be asking “Is it worth the effort?” My answer is “Yes.” Let me explain why.
Feeding the world
As I have mentioned, as we rapidly progress to a global population of nine billion in the next few decades, we will need to maximize our food production globally in every country or several billion people could be in famine mode with potential associated violence. Canada has one of the largest endowments of productive land (third globally after Australia and Kazakhstan), fresh water (third globally after the Congo and Greenland), and access to oceans. We can be a major player in feeding the world population that must be fed.
In addition, we have a very diverse industry, with well-developed sectors related to red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, horticulture, grains and oilseeds. We cover virtually every aspect of food production except tropical crops.
Food and health
Along with the population growth, we are facing a growing human health challenge. In the developed countries, the population is aging rapidly. Along with that comes increased health care costs. In lesser-developed countries, lack of food causes health problems related to poor nutrition. In developing countries, the emergence of some of the chronic diseases we have faced in the developed world such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity are becoming more common. These can be positively impacted by diet and nutrition.
Canada has many food crops that are seen more and more as having positive impacts on such chronic diseases. For example, barley has just had a health claim approved indicating that it reduces blood cholesterol. There are similar submissions related to flax, and high-protein foods containing soy are under consideration at this time. We have found many healthy aspects related to fish and seafood. All of these commodities are better suited to the Canadian climate than almost anywhere else in the world.
Much innovation has taken place to improve the health and nutritional profile of other foods, for example omega-3 eggs, and to extract natural, healthy ingredients from our food commodities for use in processed foods. Canada can become a leader in this area.
Canada is seen globally as a clean, fresh, healthy nation. Our environment gives us this image, but it is an image that is valid in reality. Food produced in Canada is well accepted all over the world. This makes Canadian food a “brand” that people are very open to and willing to buy.
In addition, Canadian cuisine and food products are distinctive and are increasingly becoming better known around the world. Whether it’s P.E.I. lobster, B.C. salmon, Quebec cheese or Niagara wines, Canadian food is becoming recognized around the world as being very desirable. If you attend the Canadian Culinary Book Awards you will also hear references to such things as “Boreal cuisine,” “Maritime cuisine,” and “Quebec cuisine,” all of which are becoming well known and respected. This, again, helps to position the Canadian food “brand” as very desirable in the eyes of consumers.