2022 Ontario Budget and the Organic Sector

In January, OCO contributed a written submission to the Ontario government’s pre-budget consultation process. Our primary asks were:

  1. Pass The Organic Products Act ​to regulate the use of the term “organic” within Ontario. This is a move supported by the sector, and implementation would cost the government little.
  2. Invest in recruitment, training, and retention of organic support staff and specialists at OMAFRA equivalent to at least one full-time equivalent (FTE).
  3. Invest $9 million over three years in an Organic Growth Strategy​ to support transition, small-scale certification, access to organic advisors and capital, expansion of organic research programs, and increased promotion of Ontario’s organic products. This investment is intended to mirror the investment Quebec has made previously (2015-2020) in their own organic sector that has enabled such positive growth there.

While OCO is pleased to see the government acknowledge the value of Ontario’s diverse agri-food sector as an economic engine, job creator, and supplier of safe, healthy food to Ontario consumers, we are disappointed to see no overt supports dedicated to the organic sector in the 2022 budget. Ontario continues to be Canada’s largest domestic market for organic products, but simultaneously continues to be Ontario’s largest importer of organic products. Production has not kept pace with market demand, and Ontario continues to fall further behind other provinces and countries in organic production.

The 2022 budget announced several upcoming agri-food strategies to support the sector, but details at this time have not been released. OCO is keen to see more direct inclusion of organic production in these forthcoming strategies. There is considerable room to expand organic production and processing capacity in Ontario, replacing imports without competing against other local producers. 

While the government correctly identifies that there are sector gaps that could be filled to improve the productivity, growth, and stability of Ontario’s agri-food sector, it is not presently clear whether the needs of the organic sector will be adequately addressed. However, supporting organic production will align with the intended outcomes of the strategies proposed in the budget, such as increasing sector resilience, fuelling economic growth, and opening new markets. Organic has long been an under-supplied market in Ontario, and global demand for organic has risen through the pandemic and is projected to continue rising; supporting Ontario’s organic sector is a sound, market-informed investment in supporting the competitiveness of Ontario’s agri-food sector. We hope the government will seize the valuable opportunity organics represent as it develops its agri-food strategy going forward.

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