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Canadian Organic Growers Releases Report on the State of Organic Production in Canada

October 23, 2006

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada (October 23, 2006): Canadian Organic Growers (COG), Canada’s largest national organic organization, today released its analysis of the organic farming sector in Canada in 2005. These data were collected with the help of Canada’s organic certification bodies (CBs).

According to Anne Macey, the report’s author, “This year’s results provide mixed signals about the health of the organic sector. Certain parts of the country, such as British Columbia continue to show strong growth, while growth in others appears to be slowing down.”

The total number of certified organic farms in Canada was 3618; down from the 3670 in 2004. The report cites two primary reasons for the decline: a loss in the number of certified maple syrup producers in Quebec and declines in the number of grain growers in Saskatchewan and

Alberta due to continuing drought and low commodity prices. Not all regions reported decreases in the number of organic farms. Organic farms in British Columbia increased by 9.5% over the previous year. This province also reported the highest number of farms in transition to organic agriculture (108 farms). Most of the BC growth was in vegetable production, with an increase of 30% in the number of farms and a 16% increase in acreage over the previous year. Organic nut acreage, though still small, grew by 44%. BC now has the largest percentage of farms using organic production methods (nearly 3% of all farms).

Despite the latest dip in the number of organic farms across the country, the number of acres under organic production continues to climb, suggesting that organic farms are expanding. In 2005 there were at least 530,919 hectares (1,311,929 acres) in organic production in Canada

with an additional 47,955 hectares (118,500 acres) of land in transition. These figures represent a five percent increase over 2004. “This is good news for the environment”, said Laura Telford, executive director of Canadian Organic Growers. “Every acre under organic management decreases the chemical load in our soils and water systems and provides better habitat for a wide variety of soil and terrestrial species that make their homes on Canada’s farmlands.”

Livestock production grew significantly relative to 2004 figures. Beef production grew by 30%, sheep numbers were up 19%, layer chickens were up 20% and broiler chicken production was up 56% over 2004. Acreage devoted to growing organic grains and oilseeds was also up

relative to 2004. Hemp production jumped by 225% over 2004, spelt was up 16%, oats were up 22% and barley production grew by 70%. In some cases, such as wheat, increased acreage did not translate into increased yields due to poor growing conditions in the Prairies.

For the second year in a row, the organic processing sector rose though the increase was not as significant as the 48% increase observed from 2003 to 2004. 2005 saw a more modest increase of 10%. The largest processing gains occurred in Quebec (36%) and British Columbia (29%). For the first time, COG’s organic production report looked at Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Under this model, consumer ‘partners’ pre‑purchase shares in a market garden operation and in return receive a weekly fresh food box. Our research revealed that

there are at least 85 certified organic CSAs in Canada. Only a few CBs provided information so these numbers are considered minimums.

The federal government has just published a draft Organic Production regulation. Telford said “We think the new regulation and its ‘Canada Organic’ label will make it easier for consumers to find and purchase Canadian organic products. Based on the US experience, we think this

will translate into increased demand for made in Canada products, which in turn will help to pull new farmers into organics.”

Canadian Organic Growers has tracked the growth in the number of certified organic farms and processors since 1992. Click here to view the full report