Study showcases the Seed Sector’s Contribution to the Canadian Economy

Nine out of every 10 bites of food taken around the world starts with the planting of a seed, reports Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

According to the July 2014 Canadian Seed Sector Profile from the George Morris Centre, the seed industry is a major contributor to the Canadian economy. The study, which was commissioned by the Seed Sector Value Chain Round Table, found that Canada’s seed industry plays a critical role in the agri-food value chain, drives agricultural innovation, encompasses diverse crops and businesses, and fuels a strong export market.

The George Morris Centre study found that in 2013, the Canadian seed sector contributed $5.61 billion and more than 57,000 jobs to the economy.

Study Highlights

Some highlights of the study include:

• More than 3,500 farmers and seed growers produce high quality, pedigreed seed on more than 1.2 million acres in Canada. They produce seed of more than 50 different crops from wheat, barley, corn and oats to canola, flax and soybeans; and from herbs and spices to forages, grasses and turf crops. This represents the largest acreage of pedigreed seed production in the world.

• Total implied employment is 57,420 jobs, accounting for $1.67 billion in wages and salaries and generating about $81.9 million in tax revenue.

• The international trade of seed in 2013 was valued at more than $875 million. In 2012/13, Canadian seed exports were valued at approximately $450 million, while imports were valued at 425 million — a $25 million contribution to Canada’s balance of trade. Canadian seed companies and plant breeders are involved in many aspects of the international seed trade, such as germplasm exchange, global research and development programs, contract production for export and marketing new varieties imported into Canada.

• The seed industry is the critical first link in the agri-food value chain. It is the starting point for the production of crops to produce food, feed and bioproducts, such as biofuels and bioplastics.

• The seed sector uses the latest in innovative and complex technologies to produce the best possible seed for farmers. The private sector invested $110 million in plant breeding, research and varietal development in 2012 — a 90 per cent increase from 2007. Canada is known for its adoption of leading-edge technologies, including biotechnology, genomics and other plant breeding advances. By 2017, research and development expenditures by private companies are expected to increase to about $116 million.

• The industry is diverse; it includes many business types, including plant breeding and research, seed growers, seed conditioners and seed testing labs, as well as seed distributors, brokers and exporters. These businesses range from small farmer-owned seed growers to large multinational corporations. In looking at research and plant breeding, data from the report shows that within the private sector, there are 135 scientists, 227 technicians, 100 support staff and 155 summer staff. Universities with research and plant breeding programs include McGill, Guelph, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Additionally, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the provincial departments of agriculture also have research and development programs.

Higher yield, greater disease resistance, improved quality, improved nutrition, appearance and processing characteristics, and a reduced environmental footprint — it all starts with a seed.

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