Small Scale Food Processors face several barriers. Women face more. These issues have an impact on the food processing industry in Canada.
The importance of the food processing industry highlighted by the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table’s 2018 report shows the strength of domestic and international markets. The report speaks to the competitive advantage of Canadian food production, identifies key troubling issues, and sets out the strategies needed to make it possible for the industry to meet increased production targets. [i]
There are several critical obstacles standing in the way of achieving business goals. We need to overcome the following elements for us to realize our ambitions:
• Internal regulatory barriers hinder innovation and competitiveness
• Investment is lagging across all sectors, particularly food and beverage processing
• Lack of strong Canadian firms to lead internationally
• Acute infrastructure bottlenecks disrupt flow of goods within Canada and to export markets
• Lack of reliable broadband limits ability to take advantage of new technologies
• Tight labour markets, restricted access to foreign workers, and evolving skillsets for the sector all pose challenges
• Trade barriers are increasing and becoming more complex
Very telling statistics from the report are of importance to our project are the following points:
Of our 11,499 food and beverage processing establishments, 94.4% are small operations with fewer than 99 employees.
Just 0.4% of Canadian agri-food companies are large firms.
At the consumer level, there is a growing awareness of the importance of local food production and programs such as ‘Buy BC’ are in place to facilitate this trend.
Much concern about the state of the food system focuses on food for health. Increasing efforts to ‘strengthen the Good Food Supply Chain’ are in evidence with a clear understanding that this trend can benefit from focused investment approaches.[ii]
Several actors, such as provincial governments, philanthropic foundations, etc. are rolling out programs aimed at increasing food production and strengthening value chains.
At the same time as the food processing sector is gaining attention, the issues women have faced accessing finance to build their businesses is now front and centre with the recognition that investing in women makes excellent economic sense. The next paper in this project will be a summary of the problems facing women attempting to access finance at all stages of their business and the kinds of programs that are emerging all over the world to address these issues.
[i] Agri-food Economy Strategy Table: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/098.nsf/eng/00006.html