Last week, we looked at the agricultural economy here in Chatham-Kent. But how important do you think agriculture is to our provincial economy? Where would you rank agriculture in terms of importance compared with other industries in Ontario? I think you will be amazed at how agriculture plays such a large part in our economy.
The Ontario agriculture and food system is huge. There are around 67,500 farms with annual sales of over $7 billion. In the processing sector, this accounts for over 85,000 jobs with annual sales of almost $24 billion. In the food services area, there are 270,000 jobs and accounting for over $13 billion in sales. In the retail food sales, this employs over 145,000 people with sales over $17 billion. Agriculture is all around us, from the farmers to the grain elevators, to the grocery stores to the restaurants. Food is everywhere. We consume food products all the time.
Ontario is the major agricultural producer in Canada. Ontario accounts for close to 25% of the total farm cash receipts (the amount of money paid to producers for their products) in all of Canada. Ontario’s food industry is well diversified, including such sectors as cereal and flour, meat and poultry, beverages, fruit and vegetables, dairy, feed, bakery and other food products. All together, these sectors account for over $23 billion in shipments to other countries.
Ontario accounts for over 40% of the Canadian food and beverage industry’s shipments, and for over 50% of the total value-added shipments of food and beverage products. 65 of the 100 largest Canadian food companies have their headquarters here in Ontario. The food and beverage sector is the second largest manufacturing sector after transportation and equipment.
If you look at total exports out of Ontario, motor vehicles and parts are by far the largest export item, followed by electrical equipment. Agri-food products follow in third place, accounting for almost 4% of the total Ontario exports. Ten years ago, agri-food exports were valued at $2.5 billion and last year the export value was over $6.6 billion. This is an amazing 165% increase in agri-food exports! Part of the reason for this drastic increase is the consistent quality of our agricultural products. Both producers and processors realize that if we are to keep our markets both here and around the world, we need to continue to produce and ship only the highest quality products. If we don’t, someone else will. The Ontario agricultural industry is committed to serving and meeting the needs of our province, our country and the world.
The next time you are shopping or cooking or eating, think about how that food product plays such a big part in our every day economy here in Ontario. Chances are someone you know may be a part of the link to bring that food product from the farm field to your kitchen table.
Think about this – When you open your arms to change, don’t let go of your values.
Just some food for thought.