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Ninth meeting of the Food Processing Industry Roundtable: Record of decision

December 7 to 8, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario

Opening remarks

  • Co-chairs welcomed approximately 60 participants.
  • Nada Semaan, federal co-chair, noted that the roundtable membership had been revised by adopting a more permanent approach to participation in order to facilitate productive discussions. This change was the result of feedback from past surveys, as well as assuring consistency with other value chain roundtables.
  • Daniel Vielfaure, industry co-chair, stressed the importance of industry speaking with a unified voice and emphasized the importance of the roundtable as one of the few opportunities that industry has to look at issues with government.

Recap since the last Food Processing Industry Roundtable meeting

The co-chairs provided an update on the Food Processing Industry Roundtable priorities and action items.

Innovation

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) developed a list of contact information for innovation organizations supporting the food and beverage processing industry and has subsequently been posted on the Food Processing Industry Roundtable webpage.

Regulatory environment

  • As a result of the last roundtable meeting, Health Canada agreed to have a stakeholder forum meeting on the issue of front-of-package labelling this past September. A further stakeholder meeting was held on November 7, 2017.

Labour

  • AAFC, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) have established a forum for trilateral interdepartmental meetings at the Associate DM level to develop a whole-of-government approach to the issue of labour, recognizing that this issue could be an impediment to sector growth, as an example, to reach a target of $75B in exports. A work plan has been developed that will help focus efforts to help the sector better meet labour needs from either domestic or foreign labour sources.

Sustainability

  • AAFC analysis on the impact of price of carbon has been focused on primary agriculture. AAFC will look at the impacts of price of carbon on the food manufacturing sector in early 2018 and will present findings at the next Roundtable.

Export markets

  • As described in Budget 2017, the $75 billion by 2025 export target for the agri-food sector will be the focus of the work of the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table.
  • To support the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table, AAFC is currently undertaking a study to better understand the industry’s current intention to increase export to markets outside of the United States (U.S.), the challenges companies are facing in doing so, as well as how can government facilitate increased exports in offshore markets. The results will be presented at the next roundtable meeting.

Metrics

  • Participants were presented with additional metrics that can support the overall goal of increased growth and competitiveness. (Note: Correction was made to the productivity outcome; it should have been noted as below target.)
  • Industry members cautioned that metrics need to be focused on achieving sustainable growth and recognize transient improvements due to currency fluctuations.
  • Investing in technologies that extend shelf life was given as an example to help exports.
    Industry indicated that the opportunities for growth are well understood but a supportive government / business environment is essential.

Public Trust

  • The National Manager provided an update on the industry-led Public Trust Steering Committee, noting that it is now in the implementation phase of its mandate.
  • It was pointed out that 73% of consumers feel the primary responsibility for providing them with information about food rests with food processors and manufacturers.

Innovation and Skills Plan

  • The presentations given by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISEDC) provided elements of the Innovation and Skills Plan, including the Economic Strategy Tables, the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) and Superclusters.
  • It was noted that 30 applications were received from the food industry for SIF.
  • While industry members agreed that Canada needs a culture of innovation, they still need to be profitable in the short term and return on investment is key. It was noted that recent tax policy changes impact competitiveness and profitability.
  • Industry members also commented that other countries encourage intergenerational transfers of company ownership, while in Canada, tax policy discourages the transfer of companies from parents to their children. This results, in some cases, in Canadian companies being sold to foreign interests.
  • Industry members raised the importance of brand differentiation as a key determinant of success, and that in Canada, it is very difficult for manufacturers to use the label “Product of Canada” because of the requirement that 98% of product ingredients come from Canada, which is very difficult to achieve in Canadian manufactured food products.
  • Labour shortage outside major markets was also raised as a concern for the industry.
  • ISEDC’s presentation on the diagnostic of the food processing industry noted the need to improve the productivity of the industry, encourage greater investment in research and development, broaden exports outside the U.S. and enhance Canada’s regulatory environment to support businesses.

Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table

  • AAFC provided an overview of the Economic Strategy Table process and the specific role of the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table including linkages and engagement with the Food Processing Industry Roundtable.
  • Industry recognized the potential value of the strategy tables in increasing the profile of industry issues.
  • A discussion ensued with a focus on impediments to innovation which included regulatory obstacles; labour challenges; lack of coordinated research efforts and programming, lack of awareness of innovation resources; additional layers placed on businesses (for example, carbon tax, clean environment); and lack of certainty in policy environment that is stalling investment.
  • Industry participants encouraged government officials to use the work that has already been done by individual roundtables and horizontal roundtable subcommittees such as the Food Processing Industry Roundtable and the Agri-Subcommittee on Food Safety.

Healthy Eating Strategy

  • Health Canada provided a verbal update on the Healthy Eating Strategy.
  • Industry members were reminded that the strategy has multiple initiatives (revised food guide, ban on partially hydrogenated oils, sodium reduction, front-of-package labelling and marketing to children restrictions) designed to reduce the rising rates of diet-related chronic disease, especially among children.
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) Associate Vice-President Barbara Jordan provided an update on CFIA’s Food Labeling Modernization which is expected to be announced in Canada Gazette I during fall 2018.
  • Industry discussion emphasized the importance of adequate transition times, alignment across all labelling compliance dates between Health Canada and CFIA, consumer testing of front-of-package symbols, repositioning of the sodium reduction thresholds, variations in country of origin labelling definitions and the disproportionate burden placed on packaged foods.
  • The dialogue also focused on the variations in the country of origin and “Product of Canada” labelling definitions and the disproportionate burden placed on domestic packaged foods products.

Labour

  • AAFC, ESDC and IRCC provided an update on the interdepartmental labour work plan for the agriculture and agri-food sector.
  • Discussions reiterated challenges in attracting labour outside of major urban centers, as well as the importance of facilitating pathways to permanent residency for temporary foreign workers.
  • Industry members also expressed the need to look at issues of access to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program for seasonal type sectors, greater clarity on how the Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs can help address labour shortages in lower skilled occupations, as well as better integrating the unemployed, including underrepresented groups, into the workforce.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership

  • AAFC provided an overview of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and programming of relevance to the food and beverage processing industry, particularly in the areas of innovation and market development.
  • Industry members highlighted the need to recognize the food processing industry’s differences with commodity groups, which affects its ability to pursue precompetitive research projects.

North American Free Trade Agreement Update

  • AAFC provided a brief update of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.

Food Policy

  • AAFC provided an update on A Food Policy for Canada.
  • Industry stressed the importance of focusing on food literacy and the need for a more reasonable definition of “Product of Canada”.
  • Maple Leaf Foods Inc. discussed a proposed governance model for the Food Policy, and offered roundtable participants the opportunity to engage in this initiative. Members were supportive of the need for an effective governance model.

Meeting wrap up and adjournment

AAFC concluded the meeting with a brief summary of the action items, including:

  • With respect to the Healthy Eating Strategy, Health Canada will:
    • provide the roundtable with information on their intended approach to consumer education
    • review the positioning of the sodium reduction thresholds established
    • provide the roundtable with information on how to engage in the front-of-package labelling symbol consultations.
  • AAFC will invite Finance Canada colleagues to the next meeting to discuss taxation issues (including tax incentives). The issue of the proposed U.S. corporate and excise taxes and their impacts on Canadian companies will also be discussed.
  • AAFC, ESDC and IRCC will continue to work on the labour work plan. AAFC will also follow-up with IRCC with respect to food processors’ use of the Provincial Nominee and Express Entry Programs, as well as provincial allocation numbers on the Provincial Nominee Program.
  • At the next Federal-Provincial-Territorial Policy Assistant Deputy Minister meeting, AAFC will discuss Provincial Nominee Programs and their importance of food processing, and encourage counterparts to speak to their provincial immigration colleagues to raise awareness of the importance of the programs.
  • It was proposed that the CFIA make a presentation at the next meeting on changes to food safety requirements, as well as how changes will be rolled out.
  • AAFC proposed to have a forward-looking discussion by Dave Shambrock on innovation.
  • The industry co-chair will write a letter to the Minister of AAFC on behalf of the industry regarding the “Product of Canada” vs. “Made in Canada” regulation. AAFC will discuss the issue with CFIA colleagues.
  • The next Food Processing Industry Roundtable meeting will be planned for spring 2018.

The co-chairs thanked members for their active participation in what was a productive meeting.

Annex – Participants

Co-chairs

  • Nada Semaan – Government Co-chair, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Daniel Vielfaure – Industry Co-chair, Bonduelle Americas

Industry

  • Dominique Benoit – Agropur Cooperative
  • Ashley Kanary – Baxters Canada Inc.
  • Paul Roach – Belmont Meat Products Ltd.
  • Carolyn O’Brien – Canada Bread Company, Limited
  • Brian Read – Canadian Premium Meats Inc.
  • Lisa Dyck – Cornell Crème
  • Martino Caretto – Ferrero Canada Ltd.
  • John Kelly – Food to Market Inc.
  • Martin Le Moine – Fruit d'Or
  • John Nishidate – Grand Hale Marine Products Co. Ltd.
  • Joe Makowecki – Heritage Frozen Foods Ltd.
  • Mark Pickard – InfraReady Products Ltd.
  • Rob Kee – Ingredion Canada Corporation
  • Dominique Bohec – La Petite Bretonne Inc.
  • Rory McAlpine – Maple Leaf Foods
  • Jocelyn St-Denis – Vegpro International Inc.

Associations

  • Paul Hetherington – Baking Association of Canada
  • Luke Chapman – Beer Canada
  • Anthony van Heyningen – Canadian Beverage Association
  • Dave Shambrock – Canadian Food Innovators
  • Chris White – Canadian Meat Council
  • Gordon Harrison – Canadian National Millers Association
  • Don Jarvis – Canadian Pasta Manufacturers Association
  • Sandra Marsden – Canadian Sugar Institute
  • Asha Hingorani – Canadian Vintners Association
  • Sylvie Cloutier – Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec
  • Jackie Crichton – Dairy Processors Association of Canada
  • Paul Lansbergen – Fisheries Council of Canada
  • Carla Ventin – Food & Consumer Products of Canada
  • Jennefer Griffith – Food Processing Human Resources Council
  • Denise Allen – Food Processors of Canada
  • Jim Smith – FOODTECH Canada
  • Don Kilimnik – Further Poultry Processors Association of Canada
  • Dan Prefontaine – Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre Inc. (Food Centre)
  • Candice Appleby – Small Scale Food Processor Association
  • Jan Westcott – Spirits Canada
  • Peter Seemann – Grassroots Public Affairs for Spirits Canada

Provincial government

  • Randy Jackiw – Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Louise Leblanc – Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec

Federal government

  • Bill Grandy – Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
  • Sonia Vieira – Export Development Canada
  • Marty Seymour – Farm Credit Canada
  • Marie-Hélène St-Louis – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  • Stelios Loizides – Western Economic Diversification Canada

Speakers/Presenters

  • Chris Forbes – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Beth MacNeil – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • France Pégeot – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Frédéric Seppey – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Barbara Jordan – Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Jodi White – Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Philippe Massé – Employment and Social Development Canada
  • Rachel Wernick – Employment and Social Development Canada
  • Steven West – Employment and Social Development Canada
  • Christine Donoghue – Health Canada
  • Pierre Sabourin – Health Canada
  • Natasha Kim – Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Éric Dagenais – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  • Sheryl Groeneweg – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  • Kasondra White – Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
  • Myrna Grahn – Public Trust Steering Committee

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

  • Ron Gerold
  • Warren Gould
  • Anne Kennedy
  • Bruno Lamy
  • Sylvie Millette LeDuc
  • Joann Perron
  • Marco Valicenti
  • John Fox
  • Paul Spooner
  • Sylvie Brûlé
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