NORTH GOWER — Upgrades and expansion projects in the food-processing industry may be eligible for help from a new provincial fund that’s intended to boost capacity and bolster food security in Ontario. Up to $25 million has been set aside for the new Strategic Agri-Food Processing Fund Program, which opens to applications April 1st.
The program will offer up to $3 million in cost-share dollars to individual food-processor projects involving the construction of new processing facilities, the expansion or modernization of existing ones, or technological upgrades. Ontario is currently short on food-processing capacity, particularly in the meat sector, and the problem is most acute in Eastern and Northern Ontario.
Speaking March 16 at North Gower Grains and Foster’s Beef Farm, provincial Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Minister Lisa Thompson said the program — initially announced last fall — would “boost competitiveness and create new opportunities for the Ontario food processing sector and the entire supply chain.” (The Eastern Ontario farm that hosted Thompson’s visit is not a recipient of program funding.)
“Investing in our processors is an investment in Ontario’s food security, an issue that has grown in importance with the increased frequency and severity of market price volatility, adverse weather events, and global instability,” Beef Farmers of Ontario President Jack Chaffe said. Representing a sector affected by a dwindling number of slaughterhouses, Chaffe thanked the province for “continued leadership in helping to address the lack of sufficient processing in Ontario.”
Grain Farmers of Ontario President Brendan Byrne praised the initiative for showing “great foresight in creating jobs and economic value for the province, and supports the farmers who feed us all. We are excited about the potential that this announcement creates for Ontario grain and beyond.”