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RBC report sees need to develop farm workers, technology in Canada

The report suggests Canada can more than $11 billion if it develops skills and embraces a culture of technology
agronomist in field

Opportunities and challenges in the Canadian agriculture sector are highlighted in an RBC report on the industry.

“We concluded that with the right mix of skills, capital and technology agriculture could add $11 billion to Canada’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) by 2030,” says the report

In 2016, agriculture accounted for $32 billion of GDP.

To get there, Canada needs to re-think the approach to education, attract more young people and invest in new technology.

Few countries are “positioned as well as Canada” to meet the food demand from 835 million more people by 2030. 

But Canada could fall behind others and has lost market share of global agriculture exports, falling to 3.9 per cent from 6.3 per cent in 20 years.

Three trade agreements with the United States, Asia and European Union provide access to competitive markets.

The report suggests Canada can add even more than $11 billion if it follows the lead of the Netherlands or Australia to develop skills and embrace a culture of technology.

Skill shortages haunt the industry.

About 16,500 jobs remain unfilled after 60,000 foreign workers came here.

By 2029, Canada will have 123,000 unfilled agricultural jobs unless action is taken.

Not only farm skills are needed; needs exist for agricultural managers in human resources, integrated systems, finance, engineering and environment.

Canadian farmers rely on government for ag tech investment for 89 per cent of the total compared with 27 per cent in the U.S.A.

Canada’s share of global ag investment at 3.4 per cent is less than India or Brazil. Both of those countries increased export market share since 2000.

The Canadian ag sector is efficient with 7.6 per cent of farms reporting $1 million or more sales compared with two per cent in 2000 and with 2.9 per cent of today’s U.S. farms.

Ninety per cent of high-volume farms use GPS and 52 per cent of large oilseed producers use GIS (Geographical Information Systems).

Better access to loan capital is a must. 

Another challenge comes from aging farmers. One-quarter of Canadian farmers will be 65 or over by 2030.

Ron Walter can be reached at