VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Canada launched the Industry-Government Food Processing Action Plan on Jan. 24 and kicked off a pilot project to actively promote the high-quality foods that Canadian farmers and food processors produce.

“Our government recognizes the importance of the food-processing industry, which employs nearly 300,000 Canadians and contributes significantly to the Canadian economy,” said Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture). “Together with the Canadian food-processing industry, we have developed an action plan to improve the competitiveness and growth potential of this important sector.”

The “Growing the Canadian Food Processing Sector – An Industry-Government Action Plan” was developed jointly by government and industry through roundtables with the processing industry held in 2009 and 2010 by Blackburn to identify the challenges facing the sector and find solutions to enable it to grow and strengthen its competitive capacity. The actions in the plan target four key areas: economics, market access, innovation and the regulatory environment. Most of the actions recommended in the plan are expected to be completed over the next 12 months. The actions are wide-ranging, including research studies, policy and program reviews and the development of new initiatives to improve the competitiveness of the sector.

In response to one of the recommendations to promote Canadian products, Blackburn announced the launch of a pilot project at Stong’s Market highlighting Canadian food products. Throughout the store, Canadian foods are identified through banners, signs, on-shelf displays, in-store and online retail flyers. The initiative’s goal is to help consumers identify Canadian food products and encourage them to buy and Eat Canadian.

Blackburn said a similar in-store pilot was recently held in Ottawa, and the next one will be in Newfoundland in the coming weeks.

The information learned from these pilots, as well as from an online simulated shopping study, will help determine how to better promote Canadian products in stores and will inform other initiatives to support Canadian agriculture, according to the Government of Canada.