Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to speak today regarding a food policy for Canada.
In Canada, the fresh produce industry has an economic impact of close to $16 billion on GDP, supports over 181,000 jobs across the country, and plays a significant role in supporting the health of Canadians. This initiative has tremendous potential to strengthen our food system, increase consumption of healthy, safe, and nutritious foods, and ensure that we have a sustainable, integrated food supply for generations to come.
As you all have recognized throughout the consultations, food is complex and brings together social, economic, academic, and community actors who have all voiced the importance of their roles within this new policy.
I'd like to focus on three broad themes that CPMA believes are vital to the success of a food policy. These themes are an integrated food systems approach to both design and strategy; the need to drive population health and industry prosperity; and the establishment of a robust multi-stakeholder governance structure that reflects the entire food supply chain and its system partners.
As a food industry, we are no longer able to work in silos. Our success is based on diversified domestic and international partnerships that enable innovation and support consumer needs and demands. I would urge the government to develop a food policy using an integrated food systems approach that takes into account all actors involved in the production and delivery of food, including primary producers, health professionals, social actors, and others. While primary production is immensely important and foundational to a systems model, we need to recognize the importance of the entire system to allow Canadians to enjoy the fruits of our labour, excuse the pun. An integrated food systems approach will ensure that all actors involved know the role they play within the food policy and how they can engage in cross-framework interactions with diversified players in the system to meet the policy goals together.
A key component of this food systems approach is the recognition that imported fruits and vegetables are important and necessary, given current demand. While Canadians will continue to support local and in-season products, imports of fruits and vegetables that we cannot produce in Canada or products that are out of season are crucial to our integrated food system and meeting consumer food needs. To feed Canadians, a national food policy must not only look at an integrated food model that supports a strong domestic supply, but also to one that recognizes our significant reliance in Canada on imported produce to meet our consumer needs for year-round safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.
As a final point on adopting a food systems approach, industry and provincial and territorial buy-in to the policy is essential. The draft food policy information provided throughout the consultations connected many social issues affecting communities and Canadians around the country. Alignment of these social concerns within a food policy must also be supported with aligned provincial tools and a realistic economic strategy at the federal level.
To that end, all strategies and recommendations within the food policy should be aligned with the goals of the new agrifood economic strategy table and with the government's objectives of increasing agrifood exports to $75 billion by 2025. These final two elements support the fourth pillar under which the policy focuses on growing more high-quality foods within Canada.
Working in isolation, these goals, objectives, and strategies run the risk of duplicating efforts at best, or being contradictory at worst. Together, these policies could launch the agrifood sector into a new age of growth and prosperity.
Let me now turn my attention to a core focus of our membership: connecting population health and industry prosperity. In short, how do we increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables within this food policy? According to a recent study published by the Canadian Journal of Public Health, three-quarters of Canadians do not eat the recommended number of daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables as proposed by Canada's food Guide. This same study found that Canadians' lack of consumption of fruits and vegetables creates an economic burden of over $4 billion annually. The research is clear: increasing consumption of these by 20%, or one serving a day, would mean we would be able to reduce the economic burden by approximately $880 million annually over five years.
At this time, Canada is the only G7 country not to have some form of national fruit and vegetable health or nutrition policy.
We believe that the creation of a new food policy is an opportune time for Canada to finally set a benchmark or target for increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. This target would not come without rewards. Increasing consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is good for the health of Canadians, and also has a significant positive impact on the Canadian economy and agriculture.
While this consumption goal is ambitious, it would support and address many cross-cutting social and health issues facing Canadians. To that end, our industry recognizes that access to fresh fruits and vegetables varies across the country and by community, especially those communities in remote regions with harsh climates. As an industry, we are committed to working with government, civil society, and academia to try to resolve the issue of improved fresh fruit and vegetable access, both physical and financial, in these communities.
Additionally, as further support for these challenges, we have signalled our willingness to engage with the government's new working group on the development of the food sector in the territories, as outlined in the recent Canadian Free Trade Agreement.
Finally, I would like to address the theme of governance of this new food policy. CPMA has been working collaboratively with other stakeholders within industry, civil society, and academia to discuss how this new policy can be governed. We propose that the government establish a new, permanent, national food policy council, comprising stakeholders from each of the groups that I just mentioned, as well as government representation. Furthermore, a whole-of-government approach to governance and implementation must be established, with a centralized secretariat to support the council, measure success, and to help coordinate departments across government. Indeed, the success of this policy will be directly tied to the strategies for implementation or lack thereof .
Again, I would like to thank the committee for inviting me today to discuss this initiative. I would be pleased to answer questions during the question period.