Food and Beverage Canada is the national association representing Canada’s domestic food and beverage manufacturing sector. BC Food & Beverage is a not-for-profit industry association representing food and beverage manufacturers in British Columbia, whose membership represents approximately $7 billion in industry revenues and over 20,000 employees.
Food and beverage manufacturing is one of Canada’s most important industries. Found in every province and region, the sector’s almost 8,000 companies play a critical role in contributing to Canada’s food sovereignty and economic well-being, and in supporting the country’s primary agriculture sector and international trade objectives.
Canadian food and beverage manufacturers generate $118 billion in annual sales and employ almost 300,000 people. Food and beverage manufacturers are also at the center of Canada’s food supply. Few Canadian agriculture products make it to Canada’s grocery stores or restaurants without first being transformed by a Canadian food manufacturer. As experienced through COVID-19, a strong domestic food sector is critical to the country’s food sovereignty and to individual/community food security.
Despite the sector’s size and importance, Canada’s food and beverage manufacturers are facing barriers that threaten the sector’s stability and future growth. COVID-19 has raised awareness of the importance of Canada’s food system but has also highlighted the fragility of Canada’s food supply. While Canada has the foundations to become a world leader in food and beverage production, realizing that potential will require an immediate focus on key policy threats.
Food and beverage is the largest manufacturing employer in Canada; however, we estimate the sector is currently short 30,000 workers – 10 percent of its workforce. By 2025, we expect vacancies to reach almost 60,000. In addition to a shortage of workers, companies regularly report challenges in ensuring workers have the appropriate skills to match the needs of our evolving sector. These issues have been significantly exacerbated by the pandemic. Added to this, the food and beverage manufacturing sector are lagging other industries and countries when it comes to investment in innovative processes and technologies.
Recognizing these challenges, FBC-ABC developed a National Workforce and Recovery Action Plan. Our plan identifies the issues preventing the sector from realizing its growth potential; issues that were prevalent even before the pandemic.
Looking toward a potential 2021 Federal Election, we ask that you consider the recommendations of our National Workforce and Recovery Action Plan, as well as including the following commitments when developing your Party’s election platform:
- A commitment to review Canada’s present and future labour situation and to develop action plans to ensure Canada has the talent it needs to achieve its domestic economic and social objectives.
- A commitment to developing a national strategy to ensure the availability of skilled tradespeople in Canada and to work with provincial governments to identify recommendations and action plans for addressing Canada’s skilled trades crisis on a coordinated national basis.
- A commitment to support foreign workers in Canada, including establishing a national economic immigration stream that is dedicated to and values the skills required by Canada’s food and beverage manufacturing sector, a dedicated agri-food Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program that recognizes the seasonal and permanent labour shortages faced by Canadian food and beverage manufacturers, and a pathway to permanent residence for workers in critical sectors such as the food industry.
- A commitment to introduce a new $150-million innovation fund designed to support the adoption of automation and robotics in the food and beverage manufacturing sector, to support the development of a domestic automation equipment sector for food and beverage manufacturing, and to ensure Canada’s regulatory approval system supports innovation.
In addition to the above, we would ask that you commit to ensuring the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food has a mandate to strengthen Canada’s entire food supply chain and to ensure Canada’s Agri-Food Policy Framework includes strategic initiatives focused on value-added processing.
We wish you and your team the best in the event a 2021 Federal Election is held, and we would welcome the opportunity to speak about the above recommendations further.
Kathleen Sullivan, CEO
Food & Beverage Canada
James Donaldson, CEO
BC Food & Beverage