An Overview of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System 2017


The 2017 Overview of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System provides an economic overview of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food system for 2016. It describes the Canadian system as a complex and integrated supply chain that includes input and service suppliers, primary agricultural producers, food and beverage processors, food retailers and wholesalers and foodservice providers.

The report looks at the agriculture and agri-food system's relevance to the Canadian economy, as measured by its contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. It also reviews the sector's performance internationally, in terms of its share of agriculture and agri-food trade to total world trade. Bioproduct production and development in Canada, farm performance and inputs, food and beverage processing, food prices and food consumption patterns, and finally government support and expenditures are also examined.


Gross domestic product and employment

  • In 2016, the agriculture and agri-food system generated $111.9 billion of gross domestic product (GDP) and accounted for 6.7% of Canada's total GDP.
  • It also employed approximately 2.3 million people, representing 12.5% of Canadian employment in 2016.
  • GDP in the agriculture and agri-food system grew by 11% from 2012 to 2016. In comparison, the Canadian economy grew by 7.8% over the same time period.

International trade

  • The value of Canada's agriculture and agri-food exports reached $56 billion in 2016, and with the addition of seafood exports, $62.6 billion.
  • Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector saw growth in exports and imports in 2016 relative to 2015.
  • On a value basis, it is estimated that in 2016 just over one-half of the value of primary agricultural production in Canada was exported either directly as primary agricultural commodities or indirectly as processed food and beverage products.

Primary agriculture

  • Farm market receipts remained at a record high of $57.6 billion in 2016.
  • Farm market receipts grew by 5.8% per year, on average, between 1971 and 2016, driven by grain and oilseed receipts, which increased by 6.5% annually on average over the same period.
  • In 2016, net farm operating expenses dropped to $44.2 billion, a decrease of 0.9% from the previous year. This was the first decline in six years driven by lower fertilizer, machinery fuel and cattle prices.
  • In 2015, the average net worth per farm was $2.8 million, an all-time high.

Food and beverage processing

  • The food and beverage processing industry has consistently been a leader in providing manufacturing jobs. In 2016, the share of total manufacturing employment increased to 17.3% from 17.1% in 2015, providing 256,456 jobs.
  • In 2016, the majority of food and beverage processing establishments in Canada were small operations in terms of employment size, accounting for 94.1% of all food and beverage processing establishments in Canada.
  • Shipments totaled $112.4 billion in 2016, over half of which were from the meat, dairy, and beverage sub-industries.

Food retail and foodservice

  • In 2015, average sales per grocery chain store increased by 2.1% from the previous year whereas average sales per independent grocery store increased by 1.7%.
  • From 2010 to 2015, commercial foodservice sales grew by 25.2% whereas employment in the sector increased by 15.4%.
  • Restaurant bankruptcies were down in 2016 and remain at historically low levels as they decreased by 3.6% from the previous year to 459.

Food expenditures, prices and consumption

  • Canadian consumers continue to look beyond staple foods to products with attributes reflecting their diverse preferences and values.
  • Availability of fruits and fruit products increased by 1% to 143.8 kilograms per person in 2016.
  • There are variations across provinces in food purchases from stores versus restaurant meals.

Government expenditures and support

  • Government expenditures in support of the agriculture and agri-food sector are estimated at $5.4 billion in 2016-17, 24.2% of agricultural GDP.
  • Public funding of research in support of the agriculture and agri-food sector is estimated to be $557 million in the fiscal year 2016-17.
  • Total government expenditure in support of the agriculture and agri-food sector as a share of GDP varies from province to province.

Highlights – Special Features

Trends in Canadian agriculture

  • Canadian agriculture has evolved over time in response to challenges, opportunities and market developments however the contribution of agriculture to the Canadian economy has grown and is likely to continue increasing.
  • Agricultural sales and farm incomes are currently at record highs and Canada continues to be one of the world's largest exporters of agricultural commodities.
  • Changing market conditions and consumer demand have led to more variety in farm types, technological advancements, crop mix and livestock herd size.
  • Adoption of innovation by the sector has contributed to increases in output and productivity.

Bioproduct production and development in Canada

  • In 2015, 190 firms were engaged in the production or development of non-conventional industrial bioproducts in Canada. The total revenue from bioproducts production was $4.27 billion.
  • In 2015, 5,618 employees were directly involved in production and development of bioproducts, or, in biomass improvement in Canada's bioproduct firms.
  • Non-conventional industrial bioproducts including biofuels, plant-based plastics, biocomposites and chemicals are a growing part of Canada's Bioeconomy.

Request a copy of the full report

To request an electronic copy of the full report, please contact:

Departmental Publications Service
Telephone: 613-773-1444
Fax: 613-773-1498

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