Sponsored Content

Commodity Report: B.C.’s Agrifoods Industry

From salmon to cherries to baked goods, countries around the world are wanting a taste of our province’s wide variety of agrifoods

Few industries rival B.C.’s agrifoods sector for productivity: despite only five per cent of the province’s land base being arable, agrifoods has become an $11-billion business. In fact, it’s the largest manufacturing industry on the West Coast, according to the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC).
In 2012, agrifoods (which includes agriculture, seafood, and food and beverage processing) employed 61,600 British Columbians, kept 1,400 processing businesses busy and was influential on an international scale having exported $2.5 billion worth of products to more than 130 countries.
“We’ve raised the bar of agrifood production globally with the quality of our raw products and the innovation of our processed goods,” says Reg Ens, BCAC’s executive director.
Plus, international markets are growing rapidly in China, South Korea and Taiwan. Geographically, B.C is favourably positioned to take advantage of offshore transaction: shipping costs to Asia are lower and travel times are shorter compared to that of competing suppliers. Morever, we enjoy duty-free access to key markets in the U.S. and Mexico.
In terms of production infrastructure, diversity is the key to our strength. With over 200 agriculture commodities and 100 seafood species shipped directly offshore or turned into everything from fruit juices to specialty pet foods, our agrifoods sector is among the most diverse in Canada.
This in turn facilitates business opportunities. For example: although fish, dairy, poultry, meat and beverages currently make up the majority of production, items classified as value-added specialty foods are increasing.
In addition to B.C.’s deep pool of commodities in this sector, our focus on producing food in a safe and sustainable manner has been credited for not only driving growth and innovation, but fostering a strong appetite around the world for our goods: “Food safety is a growing concern globally, and to be trusted in this regard gives us a huge competitive advantage.”

Given all these factors, it’s not surprising that the B.C. government is seeking new agrifoods markets. The overall goal is to boost the industry’s value to $14-billion a year by 2017.
To date the Liberals have made agrifoods a focus at trade missions, and at home it has helped strengthen markets with grants and investments (to preserve farmland and promote the Buy Local movement, among other things).
With an eye towards increasing exports, the Liberals plan to open up new markets via its International Trade and Investment Representatives, joint industry participation in key trade events and continued work on trade agreements.
Ens sees great potential for B.C.’s agrifoods industry in the years to come: “Agrifoods has become a huge industry in a relatively short space of time. Not only is growth to $14-billion in a few years feasible—as new markets continue to emerge in Asia and elsewhere in the world—our importance will take on new proportions.”

Strength in Numbers

In 2013, B.C.’s agrifoods sectors exported $2.7 billion more than 140 countries worldwide.
In 2013, $903 million worth of seafood products was exported to 62 different markets.
In 2012, total farm cash receipts generated by B.C ’s agriculture sector rose eight per cent to $2.8 billion.      
Approximately one in eight jobs in the Metro Vancouver region is in the agri-food industry.

Top Three B.C. Agrifoods Exports by Growth from 2010-12 ($ Millions)