by SUSAN MANN
Thamesville vegetable grower and on-farm processor Adrian Jaques says he’s looking to add an organic hot pepper jelly to his lineup of processed products that he sells under the brand name Sunshine Farms.
To do so, he’ll tap into funding for new product development and marketing under Growing Forward 2, Canada’s national agricultural policy framework that took effect this year.
The Growing Forward 2 money will help give him as well as other processors whose applications are accepted under the program an opportunity “to work on some of those projects that we’ve always wanted to do but never had the actual capital to go ahead with,” he says.
Jaques says funding under the previous Growing Forward program was mainly for producers. But this time around processors with potential projects can start putting in their applications as of September.
Steve Peters, executive director of the Alliance of Ontario Food Processors, says “one of the exciting components of GF 2 is the focus on food processing.”
Peters says the processing sector is very important to primary production with 65 per cent of everything that’s grown or produced in Ontario having value added to it. “We need each other.”
The food processors’ alliance and other organizations are encouraging companies to apply for Growing Forward funding.
Gerald Pisarzowski, vice-president of business development for the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, says the Ontario Food Cluster is inviting global food processing companies to invest and expand in Ontario, Canada’s largest province. If they do that and employ Ontarians, he says there is $417 million available in federal and provincial funding as part of the five-year Growing Forward 2 program. The money is available to encourage innovation, collaboration, help to develop new products, look at local value chains, productivity and environmental matters, and to create new markets.
The Ontario Food Cluster is the largest food and beverage processing jurisdiction in Canada and among the three largest in North America. The cluster builds international trade and investment opportunities for the 3,200 agri-food and beverage companies located within the Food Cluster communities, based in southwestern Ontario and Niagara. The Greater Toronto marketing alliance is part of the Food Cluster.
Peters says there are also opportunities for processors and farmers or groups of farmers to collaborate on projects under Growing Forward 2.
The cost-share funding is capped at $350,000 per processor over Growing Forward 2’s five-year time frame.
Pisarzowski, who was in Brazil recently giving companies interested in expanding into Ontario information on the provincial market, says the government there and the Brazilian development bank is pushing to help Brazilian companies internationalize. Many companies are looking for a way to get into the North American market and typically the large players have entered through acquisitions, such as when JBS USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brazilian-based JBS S.A., bought beef processor XL Foods Inc. of Brooks, Alberta.
There are many mid- to large-sized players in Brazil along with family-owned corporations also looking to expand into the North American market. “A real advantage that Ontario has is we can give them access to the Canadian and the North American market along with the Mexican market through NAFTA,” (North American Free Trade Agreement), he says.
“There’s been this recognition on the part of Brazilian companies that they need to internationalize if they’re going to remain globally competitive,” Pisarzowski says, adding “there’s a bit of a push/pull type of situation, more so than maybe in other countries.”
For the companies looking at how to access the North American market, many “don’t want to do it through the United States. They prefer our style of doing business,” he says.
Food and beverage processing in Ontario is big business. The industry is expected to hit $40 billion by the end of this year, while the agriculture and agri-food sector is the province’s number one employer.
More information about the cost share funding program is available on the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food website. BF