Mr. Chair and members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to appear before you during your visit to Halifax.
I am very pleased to be joined this morning by my legislature colleague Terry Farrell, the member for Cumberland North.
As Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and Minister of Agriculture, I take every opportunity to advocate for the importance of trade in the sectors I represent. As the report of the One Nova Scotia Commission pointed out, trade is critical to the future wealth and prosperity of our province, and indeed, in two successive throne speeches, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Fisheries have identified it as one of the key economic drivers in the province of Nova Scotia. Since the release of the report, we have been working very hard with our partners in the sector and government to meet the goals that it set out and to double the value of exports in our seafood and agriculture sectors within a decade.
I am pleased to say that thanks to the hard work of the people in those sectors, the great Nova Scotians, we are seeing success. Last year, the agrifood sector saw its exports increase by 21% to $385 million. Wild blueberries played an important part in that, and Mr. Farrell will have a few words on that in a moment.
That success means quality. Nova Scotia-grown and made products are finding their way onto store shelves and kitchen tables around the world. We want that to continue.
We see the success in the seafood sector as well. In 2015, our seafood exports grew by 33%, to more than $1.6 billion, almost reaching the goals in the One Nova Scotia report in just two years. I am proud to be able to say that Nova Scotia is Canada's number one exporter of seafood. Naturally, we want to see that success continue. To do that, we need to ensure that fair access for our products continues in markets around the world. That is why ensuring that agreements like the trans-Pacific partnership protect and advance Canada's interests is so important to our agriculture and seafood sectors.
That is also why it is important that we work vigorously to oppose any moves to unfairly close borders to our products. Recently there has been a lot of concern within our government and the lobster industry about the efforts in the European Union to have North American lobster declared an invasive species and ban the imports of live lobster from Canada and the United States. Since we are Canada's leading seafood exporter, including $200 million in live lobsters in 2015, every market is important to our lobster industry. The potential loss of the European market, which accounted for over $66 million in live lobster exports for Nova Scotia last year, would be detrimental to our sector. We want to see fair access for Canadian lobster exports maintained. We are disappointed and concerned with the recent opinion by the European Union's scientific forum recommending further consideration of Sweden's request that North American lobster be labelled an invasive species, possibly leading to an import ban.
Nova Scotia will continue to support Global Affairs Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and the Canadian lobster industry in their efforts to ensure that the European Union makes decisions on this issue that are based on fact and not speculation. It is still quite some time before the EU makes a final decision, so our efforts remain critically important.
At the same time, we are working hard with industry and our government partners to develop other export markets for our high-quality, premium seafood products—markets like Asia, which is covered by the TPP. In Asia, our seafood exports totalled $407 million in 2015. We see the potential for continued growth in that market as its share of the world's middle class continues to grow between now and 2030.
As I said a few moments ago, our success depends on ensuring that we are successful in every market we can reach. It also depends on our ability to ensure that the stability of our domestic markets for agriculture products is not adversely affected by an agreement like the TPP.
As Minister of Agriculture, I have been very clear with our federal counterparts that trade agreements must not compromise our successful supply management system. Supply management has allowed producers of agricultural products to ensure that good jobs are available in our rural communities. It has also ensured that domestic markets have a dependable supply of fresh local products for consumption.
I urge the federal government to continue to balance the export gains that are possible through trade agreements with our national interest in preserving the advantages of the supply management system. That includes ensuring that producers are adequately supported in countering any negative impacts of trade agreements like TPP. We want our exporters in agriculture and seafood to succeed. We want that success to keep our rural and coastal communities vibrant. That will happen in free trade that's balanced with fair access for our products.
I would now like to allow my colleague Terry Farrell to say a few words about the importance of the wild blueberry to Nova Scotia.