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Canada becoming more self-sufficient in fresh fruit and vegetable production: Report

July 8, 2024  By Potatoes in Canada

A recent report from Farm Credit Canada found Canada is relying slightly less on imported fruits and vegetables, although there is still a somewhat prevalent reliance on imports.

The report cites growth in the greenhouse and vertical farming space, as well as more output in traditional production of field fruit and vegetables, a testament to the respective industries’ resiliency amidst challenges. While the report indicates a slight increase in the overall consumption of food imports – Canada produces about 70 per cent of its own food, down ten percentage points since the beginning of the century – that decrease does not apply to fresh fruits and vegetables.

FCC analyzed production and consumption through the lens of a trade dependence ratio, which uses net important and exports relative to overall consumption. For example, a value of zero on a certain food commodity means that Canada is self-reliant. For example, using averages from 2021-2023, tomatoes and carrots have a value of 0.0, meaning Canada is neither a net importer or exporter, and Canadians are essentially self-reliant with tomato and carrot production. A value below zero means that Canada’s net imports are greater than what it produces; for example, asparagus is valued at -3, meaning Canada imports three times as much asparagus as it produces. Positive values mean the opposite; for example, cucumbers have a rating of 1.9, meaning its exports are 1.9 times higher than what is consumed domestically.

While Canada naturally is generally more of a net importer than exporter – of the 28 commodities studied, only six (including white potatoes) were above zero, and all were under a value of +2 – the report did note that most commodities showed an increase in their value in the last 10 years. For example, nectarines are the biggest commodity studied by FCC for net imports. But while its ratio was -20.6 10 years ago, that rating increased to -4.8 in the 2021-23 study, meaning Canadians are significantly less dependant on imported nectarines.

“Although we are still a net importer for the majority of these fresh fruits and vegetables, our dependence on trade partners to get those commodities has diminished,” the report concluded.

Not all of these changes are related solely to production; changes in eating and purchasing habits also contribute. For example; Canadian production of nectarines has increased, but imports have also fallen significantly as Canadians have consumed fewer nectarines. This has been just as key of a contributor to the change as production increases.

The report also tracked production increases, which indicated that white potato production has increased by more than 20 per cent in the last 10 years.

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