Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Food processing needs a boost

Ontario needs more advocacy for the processing sector, particularly at the federal level, says a committee struck last year to develop recommendations for agriculture.

Ontario's Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee also says in its report released this week that the Ontario government and the industry need to do more promotion at home at abroad.

The third key recommendation is to focus on medium-sized agri-food businesses to enhance competitiveness.

When she was agriculture minister in 2013, Premier Kathleen Wynne challenged the sector to double its annual growth rate and create 120,000 new jobs by 2020.

Instead there have been a score of plant closures and layoffs, including Heinz Ketchup in Leamington, the Kraft-Heinz salad dressing plant in St. Marys, Kelogg’s breakfast cereals plant in London and Schneider’s meat-packing plant in Kitchener.

The government says in a news release that the committee's recommendations, which were presented at this year's Summit, will help the sector meet the Premier's Agri-Food Challenge.

Wynne presented honours to a number of companies during the Summit.

VG Meats of Simcoe won the Premier's Award for its customized training program in meat processing and retail operations, which is supporting a new generation of skilled butchers.

Clear Valley Hops of Collingwood received the Minister's Award for developing an efficient process to produce unique, high-quality hops that reduces the time from harvest to freezing to 24 hours.

Celmar Dairy Ltd. of Norwich was honoured for building a custom system that improves the transfer and storage of forage and cuts the time it takes to fill silos by 50 per cent.

Durham Foods of Port Perry was honoured for creating a user-friendly food safety app that makes it easier for companies to track and document their compliance with national food safety guidelines.

Vineland Estates Winery Inc. of Vineland was honoured for investing in Canada's first optical grape sorter, a machine that is six times faster than hand-sorting, helping to raise standards for Ontario wine.