CAN: Farming paves the way for better days to come for the entire economy

It’s tempting to talk about Canada’s pandemic recovery, but is it premature? Cases of COVID-19 keep making headlines, and the “new normal” Canadians so desperately want still seems remote and uncertain. 

One thing is absolutely clear, though. Agriculture and the agri-food sector have gotten back to near-normal operations, and they did so with astonishing speed after some early disruptions. Farming stands out in marked contrast to the chaos and downturn that hit other industries from manufacturing and hospitality to the transportation sector. Now it turns out British Columbia is a great case study.

A 2020 B.C. study shows agriculture is a stabilizing industry and a core component of the provincial economy, and it will continue to play a huge role as the province digs out from its pandemic-induced economic downturn. The B.C. Agriculture Council (BCAC) and Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C. (IAF) had commissioned the study from MNP LLP to help develop a new vision for the sector.

For farmers, says BCAC president Stan Vander Waal, the upshot is a better understanding of their contribution to the economy. The release of Study of the British Columbia Agriculture Sector, at the height of COVID’s devastating economic downturn, amplified the value of agriculture in both good times and bad. COVID, Vander Waal says, “really put the spotlight on this report and the reality of what agriculture can be, and is.”

With over 200 commodities, B.C. has one of the most diverse agricultural sectors in the country. It is Canada’s largest fruit-producing region and ranks second for greenhouse vegetable production, and third for field-grown vegetables. It also has the second-largest floriculture and nursery industry, and the third-largest share of national receipts in supply-managed products. 

The province’s 17,528 farms generated an estimated $3.8 billion in farm cash receipts in 2019. But that’s just the beginning. Study of the British Columbia Agriculture Sector pegs its overall contribution to the B.C. economy that year at $8.5 billion. It supported 35,100 direct jobs and ag businesses also paid $950 million in taxes and made a net contribution of $3.9 billion to the provincial gross domestic product. 

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