By Magpie Group
Half of the beef we produce. 70% of our soybeans and pork. 90% of our canola. 95% of our pulses (peas, beans and lentils).1 These are examples of just some of the food we produce that is exported each year to other countries. In fact, with about half of our total production going to exports, Canada is now the fifth largest global exporter of agri-food products.2
In 2022, Canada exported nearly $92.8 billion in agriculture and food products (including raw agricultural materials, fish and seafood, and processed foods) to almost 200 countries.3
How is that possible?
It’s because Canada has a small population and a large capacity for producing food. Simply put, we can grow more food than we use.
- Our ability to produce and export food is possible due to many factors.
- There’s an abundance of land capable of growing food. 6.2% of Canada’s land area or 62.2 million hectares is used for agricultural production.4
- We have the third largest supply of fresh water in the world. In areas like the interior of British Columbia, southern Albera and southwestern Saskatchewan where there is not enough rainfall, irrigation is used to produce crops and provide drinking water for animals.
- Agricultural production is driven by innovation. There’s a widespread network of national, provincial and local agricultural research facilities dedicated to improving agricultural tools and practices.
- Canadian farmers prioritize stewardship, which means managing and caring for the land wisely. A goal of environmental stewardship is to maintain or improve the quality of soil, water, air and/or biodiversity of land. Farmers continue to identify ways to reduce environmental impacts on their farms in order to conserve natural resources.
- A coast-to-coast railway distribution system for easier transportation of goods.
- Access to our largest trading partner, the United States. Over 90% of Canadians live within 150 miles of the United States, making transport to US markets quick and easy. The Canada-United States-Mexico Free Trade Agreement (CUSMA) has helped eliminate trade barriers – like tariffs, quotas and testing and certification requirements.
- Strategically located ports on both coasts, as well as on the Hudson Bay, for trade with other international markets.
- Our global reputation as a trusted supplier of safe, high-quality food. Canada is regarded as having one of the food safety and risk assessment systems in the world, tying first with Ireland in 2014.5
The world depends on Canadian agriculture.
Although there is enough food produced in the world to feed the growing global population, there are also people worldwide who are malnourished and don’t have the food they need to thrive. The food Canadian farmers grow relieves shortages in many other countries. Our ability to help feed the world contributes to global food security, where each person in every country has sufficient access to safe and nutritious food.
Food insecurity is a complicated problem and can be the result of many causes, including:
- Climate change, which is causing food shortages due to extreme weather and infestations of pests and diseases.
- Loss of natural resources, like water and healthy soil, due to drought or poor management practices.
- Food loss and waste.
- Economic challenges and poverty.
- War and political instability.
Canadian farmers have responded to help address the global food insecurity crisis. Since 1960, farmers have been able to produce nearly four times more than they were able to in the past on only 10% more land.6 This is due to modern farming practices, the adoption of technology and intensive agriculture, which involves growing larger amounts of food on less land and raising more animals in a specific amount of space.
As a result, farmers can produce more food more efficiently for more people. They can grow more food using the same or less land, water and fuel.
Some examples of improved efficiency in production include:
- Between 1962 and 2012, egg production increased by 50% while using 81% less land, 69% less water and 41% less energy.7
- Canadian beef producers raised 32% more beef in 2011 than in 1981 using 27% fewer cattle on 24% less land.8
- Plant science innovations have increased crop yield (production), quality and nutritional value. Plant breeding alone has driven a 50% increase in crop productivity over the last century, which makes good food more available — and more affordable. Without these new technologies, Canadians could pay up to 55% more for their food.9
Modern farming or modern agriculture involves adopting advances in science and technology to grow crops and raise animals. Most farmers make decisions about how to farm and what to grow based on the newest developments in markets, technology and science. They consider which developments in the areas of crops, fertilizers and pesticides (both natural and synthetic) would be the most beneficial for their farms.
Farmers rely on the latest scientific research to grow crops and raise animals. Between 2011 and 2013, about half of Canadian farms (48%) adopted at least one type of new or significantly improved product, process or practice.10
Farms are also generally bigger and more productive than they were 100 years ago. Whereas a small farm in 1900 could grow enough food for about 10 people, today, the average Canadian farm produces enough food for more than 120 people.11 That’s about a 1,100% increase in food production that feeds people all over the world!
Looking to the future
Canadian farmers and ranchers recognize that producing food more efficiently and sustainability will help meet the needs of a growing world population. As such, they will continue to look towards adopting technology and innovation to improve production practices.
They also take their role as stewards of the land very seriously and understand that taking care of the natural environment is essential to ensuring a healthy future for agriculture. To find out more about sustainability initiatives in agriculture, see the following articles:
- Protecting Biodiversity: Environmental Farm Plans
- Encouraging Responsible Use Of Pesticides: Pesticide Applicator Licence
- Recycling on the farm: Cleanfarms
- Healthy Soil For Today And The Future: 4R Nutrient Stewardship
- https://cafta.org/agri-food-exports/ ↩︎
- https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview ↩︎
- https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview#s4 ↩︎
- https://agriculture.canada.ca/en/sector/overview#s2 ↩︎
- https://www.canada.ca/en/news/archive/2014/11/canada-food-safety-system-ranked-world-best.html ↩︎
- https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/agriculture-and-food/making-better-policies-for-food-systems_ddfba4de-en ↩︎
- https://www.researchgate.net/publication/328036266_Sustainability_in_the_Canadian_Egg_Industry-Learning_from_the_Past_Navigating_the_Present_Planning_for_the_Future ↩︎
- https://www.publish.csiro.au/an/AN15386 ↩︎
- https://croplife.ca/wp-content/uploads/The-Value-of-Plant-Science-Innovations-to-Canadians_RIAS-Inc.pdf ↩︎
- https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2016/aac-aafc/A38-1-1-2016-eng.pdf ↩︎
- https://farmfoodcaresk.org/real-dirt-on-farming/mobile/index.html#p=3 ↩︎