Canada is one of the largest producers and exporters of agricultural products in the world today. Although the proportion of the agri-food industry to the GDP has fallen over the past couple of generations, it still remains an essential component of the national economy. You’ll find a wide variety of settings within the industry, from wheat fields to valley produce growers to beverage processors, all contributing to the economy.
There are currently 48 primary crops which are associated with the agri-food industry of Canada. They are separated into five primary production sectors to track cash receipts. Grains and oilseeds provide the most value, responsible for 34% of the revenues earned. Livestock red meats are responsible for 24% of the industry, while dairy products contribute an additional 12%.
Some provinces and regions specialize in one product. Saskatchewan, for example, is the primary producer of wheat products for the industry. More than 12.9 million tons of wheat were harvested in 2017, with a majority of that (8.73 million tons) coming from the spring wheat harvest.
All monetary figures quoted in this piece are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise indicated.
Essential Agri-Food Industry Statistics
#1. The total value of the global agri-food industry is USD $5.98 trillion. The global food commodities index presented by the FAO increased by 8% in 2017 over the year before. (Euler Hermes)
#2. The agri-food industry in Canada contributes over $110 billion each year to the GDP. That figure is larger than the national gross domestic product of almost 70% of the countries in the world today. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
#3. The agri-food industry in Canada produces 75% of the world’s maple syrup. The industry is also the world’s largest exporter of canola, pulses, oats, flaxseed, and durum wheat. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
#4. About 2.3 million Canadians are employed by the agri-food industry, which means 1 in 8 jobs is tied in some way to the agricultural sectors of the country. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
#5. There are currently 10.1 million beef cattle managed by the agri-food industry in Canada, along with 26 million pigs being raised. Canada is the third-largest exporter of pork products to the global market, after the United States and the European Union. (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)
#6. The food and beverage processing industry in Canada is the largest in sales of its type, earning $112.4 billion per year. This segment accounts for 16% of the total manufacturing shipments available each year. (Statistics Canada)
#7. Over 285,000 people are employed by the food and beverage processing industry. (Statistics Canada)
#8. As of 2011, there were over 205,000 operational farms in Canada contributing to the agri-food industry. About 3,200 farms were operating with gross farm receipts of $2 million or more. (Statistics Canada)
#9. Grain and oilseed farms are the most common found in Canada, with 63,628 registered during the 2016 census of agriculture. Oilseeds (except soybeans) are the most common crop grown, with over 12,000 farms reporting this activity. (Statistics Canada)
#10. Cattle ranching and farming is the focus of nearly 50,000 farms throughout Canada. Out of that figure, are is about 10,000 farms which focus on dairy production. Since 2011, however, there has been a 13.8% decline in the number of dairy farmers working with the agri-food industry. (Statistics Canada)
#11. Dry pea and bean farming has seen the largest surge in interest within the Canadian agri-food industry since 2011. With about 4,000 farms focusing on this product, the segment saw 151% growth. (Statistics Canada)
#12. The steepest declines for the agri-food industry were found in sheep and goat farming, which lost 22.1% of farms since 2011. (Statistics Canada)
#13. Except for farms with more than 3,520 acres being utilized, which grew by more than 10%, every farming segment has declined at the national level since 2006. Small farms of less than 10 acres saw the least amount, declining just 1.3%. (Farm Credit Canada)
#14. Between 2006-2011, Nova Scotia saw its total number of farms increase, going from 3,795 to 3,905 farms. The province saw a 27% increase in the number of farms listed under 10 acres. (Farm Credit Canada)
#15. Cannabis growth makes up 5% of the GDP for British Columbia. The crop is worth $7.5 billion each year and employs over 250,000 people on its own. (BC Business Magazine)
#16. Wool production in Canada totaled 1.2 kilograms in 2016, with the average price paid being $1.38 per kilogram. Total farm value was down 11% from 2015 figures, reaching just $1.7 million. (Statistics Canada)
#17. Although farm operators represent less than 1% of the national population, every Canadian participates in the agri-food industry when they make food choices or shop for groceries. (Statistics Canada)
#18. Wheat and canola represent almost 50% of the field crop area utilized by Canadian growers, while 6% of the field crop area for the agri-food industry is represented by pulses. (Statistics Canada)
#19. Since 1991, the average farm size has increased from 598 acres to 778 acres, while the number of operators has dropped by almost 25%. The average age of an operator has increased from 47 years of age to 54 years. (Statistics Canada)
Agri-Food Industry Trends and Analysis
Before European settlers made their way to Canada, the First Nations tribes were planting squash, potatoes, beans, and maize for their food. Evidence suggests agricultural activities have taken place in the country since at least the 24th century BC. Corn cultivation in Ontario has been happing for over 1,500 years.
Even with the influence of European growing methods, the fertile soils of Canada provide a foundation for consistent economic sustenance. It is one of the strongest agri-food markets in the world today because soil health techniques have been practiced since the 17th century.
Although the global economy has shifted the top priorities for crop growth within the industry, it continues to thrive. Look for more farmers to switch from fresh produce to oats, dry beans, or similar products based on what the export market wants. Some farmers have switched to growing crops like ginseng because of their cash possibilities.
Even with the political uncertainty caused by changes to trade agreements with primary partners like the United States, the agri-food industry in Canada is poised to continue growing. With new products like cannabis available to the industry, another $10 billion (or more) could be added to local economies during the forecast period.
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