Canada: the state of organics
by Editor (comments: 1)
The Canada Organic Trade Association’s (COTA) recently published The State of Organics: Federal-Provincial-Territorial Performance Report 2017. The report provides a comprehensive facts about the current level of development of the organic sector in each province.
Canada has the fifth-largest organic market in the world but faces international competition. Government support will help make Canada a leader in this important and sustainable agricultural sector, says the report. The report´s goal is to stimulate greater government support for certified organic products. Future annual reports will monitor progress and highlight successes, year-to-year.
Significant gaps in organic regulations
The report catalogs and analyzes organic policy frameworks across various levels of government regarding regulation and enforcement, production and market supports, and data collection. Perhaps its most important revelation is that there are significant gaps in organic regulations in some jurisdictions. Quebec has its regulations. Manitoba, British Columbia, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have adopted national organic regulations set forth by the federal government in 2009.
The rest of the provinces and territories, including Ontario, which is the largest organic market in Canada, do not have any regulation at all, explains the COTA report. There´s no provincial standard, which impacts its ability to ensure the integrity of organic products. The council notes that retail sales in Ontario are $1.4 billion, but less than two per cent of agriculture is under organic production. In 2015, there were 770 certified organic producers and 375 processors. And while 19 per cent of Canada’s organic producers operate in Ontario, 25 per cent of all farming in the country is done here.
"But this patchwork of regulations makes it difficult to regulate intra-provincial organic claims. The government of Canada receives kudos for its commitment to strengthening the domestic organic market through a national consumer campaign and support for organic export development", the report says.
The provinces´s status
Quebec is the first in Canada in government programming and financing for the organic sector. Farmers are encouraged to transition to organic production, and the province offers additional supports related to extension, crop insurance, and research.
Manitoba did well in several categories and was second in overall scoring. The province adopted the Organic Agricultural Products Act and associated regulations in 2013 and uses federally accredited certification bodies to ensure compliance. The Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s Organic Insurance Program offers insurance for all the main field crops. Meanwhile, British Columbia has strong market and production supports in place. The province has a long history of organic farming and consumption, and its voluntary standards, introduced in 1993, will become mandatory in 2018.
Alberta has a significant agricultural marketing program which organic producers access, but little transition support or extension. There are ongoing discussions concerning crop insurance programs and regulations which would strengthen organic assistance.
Saskatchewan scores well for initiatives such as The Prairie Organic Development Fund, the Organic Connections Conference and Trade Show, and its organic crop insurance program. The province does not have any organic regulations.