Twenty per cent lo­cal food by 2020

Annapolis Valley Register - - EDITORIAL - Kings WESTMLA

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.

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