Source: Winnipeg Press
The new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is good news for Canadian producers, and for investors seeking certainty in Canada. But amid relief at reaching the deal, Canada cannot forget the painful lessons of what we went through to get the agreement — or lose the momentum to diversify our exports.
This diversification that the entire country, and particularly Western Canada, needs means more than just moving the same products to new markets — it means a full-court press to move new products, both to new markets and to the U.S.
Fortunately for Western producers, one such opportunity has been quietly emerging from the Prairies: plant-based proteins and ingredients. On Oct. 3, the protein industries supercluster launched in Winnipeg. The supercluster is an industry-led consortium of small- to large-sized enterprises, research, academia, associations and governments involved in food and food-ingredient manufacturing, agriculture and food-related services. For the Prairies, and Manitoba in particular, this could be huge.
Over the next 10 years, the plant protein industry is expected to create more than 4,500 jobs and have a GDP impact of more than $4.5 billion. Manitoba is poised to lead. Canada’s first big plant protein processing facility (Roquette) set up stakes in Portage la Prairie, and the province is already home to a wealth of agriculture and crop science knowledge.
The new products being produced in the Prairies, such as ingredients for the new meatless A&W burger, are arguably the single best opportunity for moving into higher value-added exports that has come along in Canada in generations. Canada could come to dominate these opportunities globally, but only if we get our act together and take bold steps to grow the industry — now.