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Feb. 14th was Food Freedom Day

By Debra Pretty-Straathof
VP Ontario Federation of Agriculture

When Canadians celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14 this year, farmers will mark a second national milestone: Food Freedom Day. By February 14, 2013, the average Canadian has earned enough income to pay their grocery bill for the entire year.
The date – calculated by Statistics Canada – is estimated using 2012 data that suggests during 2012 Canadians spent 12.3% of their disposable income on food, beverages and tobacco. In 2012, disposable income per capita is expected to be approximately $29,609. Expenditures of food, beverages and tobacco were approximately $3,662.

For Canadian farmers, Food Freedom Day is an opportunity to acknowledge the safe, affordable, quality food that is produced by farmers across the country. In Ontario alone, the agri-food industry contributes $33 billion annually to the Ontario economy and represents 10 per cent of the province’s entire workforce with 700,000 jobs. Food and beverage processing is Canada’s largest manufacturing sector.
But Food Freedom Day can also be a bittersweet day for Ontario farmers. The farmer’s share of common grocery items is often a mere fraction of the prices paid in grocery stores. And the stringent food safety, environmental and labour standards that ensure Canadian food is of the highest quality may not always be the same standards applied to imported food that floods the grocery shelves.
Canadians spent just 9.7 per cent of household expenditures on food consumed at home in 2011 (not including tobacco and alcoholic beverages). In a ranking of 12 top countries, Canadians spent less on food than most countries – ahead of only the United Kingdom and the United States. Mexico spends the highest percentage of income on food at 22.7 per cent, followed closely by China, Japan, Italy and France.
Ontario farmers are proud of the vital role they play in bringing safe, affordable food to Canadians. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is committed to continuing our work with policy makers and our food industry counterparts to ensure Ontario’s agriculture sector is built on a foundation of profitable and sustainable farms.