Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Special foods sector needs help

 The farmers and companies trying to produce and market specialty foods need help from the government and should organize their own national association, according to a report from the George Morris Centre that was commissioned by the federal agriculture department.

The centre’s Value Chain Management team found that those in the business could benefit from market intelligence, from management training, from learning how to approach retailers and by adopting standards that match global-trading standards.

Market intelligence is important to identify opportunities and  to develop production and marketing plans, but neither Statistics Canada nor AC Neilson provides this type of information for Canadians,  says the report.

This “contrasts markedly” from what’s available to the farmers and processors in the United States and other jurisdictions, says the report.

Another major impediment is the fact these special foods are outside the mainstream Canadian markets and therefore they face “regulatory challenges.”

The report says governments should review their regulations for “unintended consequences.”

And the Canadian Food Inspection Agency needs to “redefine its culture and the way it interacts with individual businesses, as well as sectors, through changing how the CFIA’s performance is measured,” says the report.

Good luck on that one! There are a host of federal government agencies that have long been in dire need of cultural transformation, but continue to flounder - immigration, Indian affairs and employment insurance, to name only a few.

Farmers and food processors find the CFIA to be “more of an obstacle than a valued service provider,” says the report. No kidding!

The study team reviewed the literature available and conducted many interviews with business leaders, says the introduction to the executive summary.

The team chose red meats produced, processed and marketed to meet religious law, such as halal standards for Muslims, and goat meat and products.

It also looked into buckwheat and pulses for the gluten-free market and shellfish and Kazunoko from Canada’s East and West coasts.
The executive summary is posted on the George Morris Centre website.