But producers must adapt quickly to a global industry powered by cognitive machines and a skills-savvy workforce
SASKATOON, Aug. 28, 2019 /CNW/ - Canada must embrace a skills agenda and boost innovation to capitalize on the rising demand for agricultural products around the world according to a new report from RBC (www.rbc.com/farmer4). The report estimates the sector's GDP could reach $51 billion in output by 2030 - up from $32 billion today -- if the right investments in people and technology are made.
"Within the coming decade, there will be about nine billion people to feed around the world -- over one billion more than today," said John Stackhouse, Senior Vice-President, RBC. "Our sector is well-positioned to supply the rising demand. Canada is consistently ranked one of the world's top five exporters, and we anticipate trade agreements with Europe, the United States and the Pacific Rim region will enable our producers to tap into large and fast growing markets."
Yet the report cites a number of challenges that may undermine the sector's prospects. The current shortage of Canadian agriculture workers is expected to grow to an estimated 123,000 positions by 2030. Moreover, new skills are required to manage the farm of the future, as automation and new and emerging technologies become as essential to farming as water or fertilizer.
These challenges are exacerbated by a number of structural issues. Canada's rural population growth has remained flat for the past thirty years, which makes it harder to address labour shortages. Additionally, the bulk of the sector's capital is held in large, illiquid assets such as farmland and barns. And high operating costs hamper a producer's ability to invest in new technologies. These and other factors have resulted in uneven adoption and usage of advanced technologies across the country.
A number of the report's recommendations stem from RBC's consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, including producers, industry groups, and academia on the sustainability of the agriculture workforce and the opportunities presented by new technologies. Additionally, the report urges:
"Feeding a hungry world presents a historic opportunity for Canada if we can figure out how to better match people, capital and innovation in the agriculture space," said Stackhouse. "We believe Canada can once again be an agriculture superpower, and do it in a way that cuts greenhouse gas emissions, and supports thousands of communities that still help to define our country."
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