It's a pleasure to be here with you today to highlight the ways in which worker shortages are impacting the industry's growth potential and increasing farm debt.
We all enjoy the benefits of abundant, healthy, safe, and affordable food in Canada due to a world-class food system, one that feeds our 37 million Canadians and a multitude of people around the world. Canada is well positioned as the fifth-largest agriculture and food exporter globally. The 2.3 million Canadians who work in the industry—Canadian farmers, food processors, and workers—drive a significant part of the Canadian economy, contributing $100 billion toward Canada's gross domestic product.
The Canadian government recognizes the importance of this large industry sector, and believes that Canada can grow its position as an agrifood leader by increasing its output of high-quality and trusted agrifood products for global consumption. Budget 2017 and the federal advisory council on economic growth identify the agrifood sector in Canada as a high-growth sector, one that is evolving and expanding due to increasing population growth and increasing consumer demand for the Canada brand.
The federal government's budget for 2017 includes the objective to grow Canada's annual agrifood exports from $56 billion per year to $75 billion per year by 2025. All indications are clear that there is enough demand for Canada's products to achieve this ambitious target within the next eight years. However, our agrifood system relies on people—farm and food businesses and their workers—to grow, harvest, prepare, and package its products. In order to accomplish this objective, Canada's producers will need more workers. Unfortunately, the business of farm and food production is already struggling to find enough workers, and straining to deal with vacancy impacts.
Our research clarifies that 10 years ago, the industry was 30,000 workers short. Today that figure has doubled, and there are clear expectations that it will double again in 10 years. The average job vacancy rate for all Canadian industries is 1.8%. However, on-farm job vacancies are 7%, and vacancies at rural meat-processing facilities are excessively high, at 9.3%. These worker vacancies exist despite extensive efforts by business owners to recruit and attract workers. There are lots of reasons for this. The work typically happens in rural Canada, where very few Canadians live, and the industry involves extensive work that is seasonal. The worker vacancies also exist despite the fact that the agri-workforce is diverse, and includes a significant number of international workers when Canadians are unavailable or cannot be found to fill positions.
Job vacancies within the agrifood industry are very costly on many levels. They have a significant impact on the bottom line, certainly. Although we don't have figures on debt, research clarifies that $1.5 billion in revenue is lost each year for Canada's primary agricultural producers. This figure does not capture the losses for food processors. It's also difficult for businesses to stay open and viable when vacancies are so high. Although demand for products is there, producers can't meet the demand or expand their businesses when critical positions remain unfilled. Vacancies certainly impact the interests of the next generation to get into this business.
The fact that farm and food processors can't fill vacant job positions, despite extensive efforts, certainly calls into question the ability of the sector to achieve the growth targets set out in budget 2017. Together with Canada's agriculture and agrifood labour task force, we have been researching this issue and gathering industry feedback from all commodities and all value chains across Canada. Stakeholders have been clear that labour should be a key priority of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's next policy framework, so that together government and industry can drive solutions to ensure that the growth targets set within the federal budget for the industry can become a reality.