The State of Canada’s Agriculture & Agri-Food Industry in 2015

Ontario small business grants for the agri-food industry

In my first year with Mentor Works, I have been given the opportunity to compile and present key information pertaining to important sectors of the Canadian economy, especially those of which the Federal and Provincial Governments have targeted government funding initiatives towards. I have adapted my industry reports into blog posts so that our readers can benefit from an enhanced knowledge of the issues, trends, and government funding initiatives present in key sectors of the Canadian economy.

This article examines summarizes the current state of, as well as Government Funding available for, the Canadian Agriculture & Agri-Food Industry.

Industry Overview

Agriculture & Agri-Food (A&AF) encompasses key industries including food production (primary agriculture/farming) and food processing (food manufacturing). As a whole, the A&AF sector is responsible for 1-in-8 Canadian jobs (2.1M jobs), and represents 6.7% of total Canadian GDP ($103 billion as of 2012, reported in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s 2014 industry-wide report). The industry is divided into two sub-sectors: primary agriculture (producers) and food processing.

Primary Agriculture

The production of food (growing, raising livestock, etc.) accounts for only 1.7% of Canada’s GDP. Despite this low GDP share, food production is at the heart of the A&AF industry as it is necessary for the lucrative food processing industry to thrive. Primary agriculture has grown on average 1.4% year-over-year since 1997.

AAF's GDP Contribution in 2012
AAF’s GDP Contribution in 2012

Food and Beverage Processing

This industry is Canada’s largest manufacturing sector, representing 15.9% of the Canadian manufacturing sector’s GDP in 2012, while also employing 16.7% of all Canadian manufacturing workers. Ontario and Québec have the highest distribution of Food and Beverage Processing businesses of all Provinces, with 32.9% and 24.6% of all processing businesses, respectively.

OMAF Revenue Stream Breakdown
OMAF Revenue Stream Breakdown

A cross-section of the Ontario Food and Beverage Processing industry reveals that meat products are by far the most important sub-sector, generating over $8.1 billion annually, followed by Dairy ($5.1 billion) and Beverage/Tobacco manufacturing ($4.9 billion).


Canadian A&AF exports grew by 8.1% in 2012 alone, fuelled by strong growth in exports to China, which grew by 84.2% in 2012 to $5 billion. Canada’s overall A&AF export sales total $43.6 billion or 3.5% of total global A&AF exports. In the end, over half of the food grown in Canada every year is exported.


Canada also imports $32.3 billion worth of food, making Canada the world’s 6th largest food importer. 61.2% of all food imports are from the U.S. market ($19.7 billion). Canada maintains a trade surplus in the A&AF market, as well as a slim surplus in terms of food trade with the U.S.

Canadian Government Funding Grants and Loans

A&AF is a sector that is heavily subsidized by Federal and Provincial Governments. Government funding for agriculture and food systems industry activities is equal to 22.1% of A&AF GDP. Mentor Works has extensive experience in connecting A&AF sector businesses with sources of government funding, including the Growing Forward 2 funding initiative.

Agri Grant Funding for Business: Growing Forward 2

This joint Federal/Provincial policy framework for Canada’s A&AF sector has recently been renewed through to 2018 under the name Growing Forward 2 (GF2). The GF2 initiative represents a $3 billion investment in A&AF to promote food processors and producers continued growth in Canada.

Federal Growing Forward 2 Programs: $1 billion funding pool

  • AgriInnovate: Up to $10M to support product demonstration, commercialization, and adoption of innovative R&D activities.
  • AgriMarketing: Up to $50,000 in grants per year for both SMEs and non-profits to support international marketing activities, excluding the United States.
  • AgriCompetitiveness: Funding to support direct investments in order to encourage emerging trends and opportunities in the industry.

Provincial Programs: Growing Forward Ontario 2 is Ontario’s provincial Growing Forward 2 funding umbrella. The program is dedicated to providing $2 billion of funding to the agri industry, cost-shared between Federal and Provincial Governments. Projects seeking funding under GF2 Ontario must fall inline with one of the six areas of focus:

  1. Environment and climate change adaptation
  2. Animal and plant health
  3. Assurance systems (food safety, traceability, and animal welfare)
  4. Market development
  5. Labour productivity enhancements
  6. Business and leadership development

Follow the links above to learn more about the funding options available to A&AF industry firms, and how this money can be easily accessed to help grow your business.

Funding Funding Now, Contact Mentor Works

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