Growing with marketing campaigns of agriculture food products in Canada and internationally is the increased utilization of fear as a marketing weapon. Statements of non-GMO, grass fed only, organic and antibiotic-free create doubt and fear in the minds of the consumer. Are the products I purchase and consume less nutritious or harmful to our families?
Marketing campaigns have expanded to using socially responsible terms like climate change, renewable resourced, sustainability, regenerative, agroecology and responsibly sourced. Many consumers struggle with the definitions of each and how each can be interchanged to fit the narrative.
A battle has begun to define whose system of production, delivery and processing is best for the end consumer. A common statement I hear is if we don’t adapt and resolve the concerns of export customers, they will refuse to purchase our products. Yet no one challenges the rational of specific demands; are they legitimate, founded or motivated to protect their internal markets and production? Canada has and maintains world class agriculture production standards which domestic consumers feel confident are safe. Are foreign countries or collective’s willing to pay more for specific production practices defined or demanded?
Exporting agriculture nations including Canada need to send a clear message internally and externally. Utilizing fear to influence consumer purchasing behavior or as a bargaining tool to influence production practices must stop. It is disingenuous to the farm families producing the products. Fear and misleading marketing statements undermine the credibility of the entire agriculture industry on both sides of the spectrum. It is unnecessary and unproven.
Attempts to introduce ideology into agriculture policy, regulations and practices based on fear principles will fail. The result: delaying reviews and registration of products, reduction of private research and development and introduction of new products and technologies, increased cost of production lessening the ability to compete on the global stage. A measure of one’s country is defined by the cost of food and percent food cost of disposable income. More direct, how well is the population living in poverty able to source nutritious foods.
Canadian agriculture industry and farmers are environmentally responsible and humane in their production practices and processing, continually seeking out new and novel production methods. Adoption of new cultural practices, systems and technologies are made on sound judgement: return on investment, profitability, sustainability, lower production costs, legacy effects and quality of life (in no particular order).
As independent businessmen and women they understand their operations intimately. Policies domestic and international that penalize farms in order to adopt questionable changes to the operation don’t work. Incentives do work.
In February 2017, the Minister of Finance’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth identified Canada’s agri-food sector as having great potential to be a driver of economic growth for the nation. After assessing global and domestic trends and growth opportunities an ambitious target of $85 billion in agri-food and seafood exports by 2025 (32% increase from $64.6 billion in 2017) was set. Acknowledging the importance, the domestic market set a target of $140 billion in sales of agriculture and food products by 2025 (27% increase from $110 billion in 2017).
Achieving the targets positions Canada as a global leader of high-value markets and reclaim previous lost domestic opportunities. Bold actions in regulations, infrastructure and market readiness, private and public investments in research and development, and a message of opportunity to the entire Canadian agriculture industry. Can this be achieved in the current political environment?
The strength of the Canadian agriculture industry and farmers is based on entrepreneurial spirit. Let’s not self-undermine Made in Canada capabilities.
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