Twenty per cent local food by 2020
s a bountiful harvest unfolds in the Annapolis Valley and throughout our province, there is every indication that a strong local economy is possible. In my view, it must be a key goal of government policy. That is why in 2010, the Liberal party established the target of 20 per cent local food production and consumption by 2020.
We are presently at about 12 per cent. For people who have made the change and commitment to local food and wine, there are a number of benefits. Over arching is the fact that the more fresh wholesome food we have in our diet, the better health we can gain and sustain.
In addition to improving health, preservation of the family farm, protection of some of Canada’s best farm land and increasing the sustainability dimension of our economy will produce enormous benefits. We are realizing more and more, through the work of the Nova Scotia Food Council and other like-minded efforts that dependence on California, Florida, Central America and other countries to produce our food has negative health, environmental and economic consequences.
I have a personal marker on this issue, because when I arrived at Province House in 2004, there was no talk and little policy support for revitalization of local food consumption, let alone the development of a local food economy. I didn’t consider being one of those in public office to speak out and advocate for more local food consumption as a big deal - it was just the right thing to do.
It is interesting to note that at about the same time, only five or six restaurants and about the same number of farm markets were marketing local food and wine. The main food chain stores had little to offer as central warehousing promoted food from afar. Today, 80 per cent of our restaurants and bars are promoting them. There are now about 30 farm markets and we are seeing more local produce in our mainline stores.
I look forward to the day when families in our province will go to our fast food restaurants and the menu will be advertising that the beef
Aproducts are 100 per cent Nova Scotian Grown. The interest here in the Valley has moved well beyond the Incredible Picnic, and I applaud local business people for their investment and initiative.
At the present time, 63 per cent of our province’s food and beverage industry is locally owned, as opposed to chains or national companies. So there is great opportunity to see continued growth of what we presently produce and the additional items that will reach the market in the future. Food and beverage operations account for seven per cent of Nova Scotia’s employment and 1.2 billion in the economy. That sector has enormous potential. When tourism and agriculture are added, the picture is strong and needs to be more significantly advanced.
In fact, if local food products that presently make up about 12 per cent of our food basket were to move to 20 per cent the impact would be dramatic. Increasing farm and food manufacturing by eight per cent would have impacts on employment, gross domestic product - GDP and personal income from such growth.
An eight per cent increase in production would boost total food sector employment by about 1,200 jobs over the next seven years. Agriculture is one of the sectors that can start to move our economy in the right direction. Each and every Nova Scotian family can make a difference. Presently, it is estimated that our families spend about five per cent of their food budget on locally-produced food. So if we were to double that amount it would mean increasing purchases from about $300 to $600 per year by simply substituting.
The cost of the shift to purchase more local food is the 20 per cent target that moves our province to firmly establishing a local food economy. As we increase our exports of functional foods and value added, a jolt to a sustainable economy emerges. You and I can help farmers to once again be at the heart of the food chain where they belong.