Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

An overview of the Agricultural market 2014
From Statistics Canada


This 2014 report provides an economic overview of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food system with the latest comprehensive annual data from 2012. It is meant to be a multi-purpose reference document to provide:

  • a snapshot of the structure and performance of the system including the changes that are occurring in response to challenges, opportunities and market developments; and

  • background data and information to inform public discussions on these challenges and opportunities.

The report describes the Canadian agriculture and agri-food system as a modern, highly complex, integrated, internationally competitive and growing part of the Canadian economy. It is a resilient system, continuously responding to the challenges and opportunities it faces by restructuring and adapting to changing consumer demands, advancing technology and globalization.

Charts and tables with brief accompanying text are used to summarize information and to provide base indicators of structure and performance.

The report provides a general picture of the economic contribution of the agriculture and agri-food system to the Canadian economy, as measured by its share of gross domestic product (GDP) and employment, and concludes with a review of government expenditures in support of agriculture and agri-food, including international comparisons of government measures of support.


Importance of the System to the Canadian Economy

  • The Canadian agriculture and agri-food system (AAFS) is a complex and integrated supply chain which includes input and service suppliers, primary producers, food and beverage processors, food retailers and wholesalers, and foodservice providers. The activities along this supply chain generate significant economic benefits at both the federal and provincial levels.

  • In 2012, the AAFS generated $103.5 billion, accounting for 6.7% of Canada's GDP. Of this, the food retail and wholesale industry accounted for the largest share (1.8%), followed by the food, beverage and tobacco (FBT) processing industry (1.7%). 

  • The agriculture and agri-food sector's contribution to the Canadian GDP has increased annually since 2007, the exception being during the economic recession of 2009. 

  • Employment in most industries in the AAFS continued on an upward trend. In 2012, the AAFS provided one in eight jobs in Canada, employing over 2.1 million people. The foodservice industry was the largest employer in the AAFS, accounting for 5.2% of all Canadian jobs in 2012.

Global Context

  • The performance of the agriculture and agri-food industries depends on their ability to compete both in domestic and international markets over the long-term. Canada continues to remain relatively competitive in such markets.

  • Canadian export sales grew by 8.1% in 2012. While the U.S. remains Canada's most important agriculture and agri-food export destination, Canadian exports to China increased by 84.2% in 2012 to $5.0 billion, and accounted for much of the export growth in non-U.S. markets. With export sales of $43.6 billion, Canada overtook Argentina to become the world's fifth-largest exporter, accounting for 3.5% of the total value of world agriculture and agri-food exports.

  • While the U.S. continues to be Canada's most important trading partner, China surpassed Japan in 2012 to become Canada's second-largest agriculture and agri-food export destination. Of the total value of Canadian agriculture and agri-food exports, the U.S. accounted for 48.4% and China, 11.4%.

  • With import sales of $32.3 billion in 2012—an increase of 4.2% over the previous year—Canada remained the world's sixth-largest importer, accounting for 2.7% of the total value of world agriculture and agri-food imports. The U.S. accounted for 61.2% of the value of all Canadian agriculture and agri-food imports.

  • It is estimated that approximately half of the value of primary agriculture production in Canada is exported, either as primary commodities or processed food and beverage products. The processed foods industry is particularly export-dependent and Canadian exports of processed food products increased by 6.0% to $21.7 billion in 2012.

Components of the Agriculture and Agri-Food System

In response to challenges, opportunities and changing market conditions, the agriculture and agri-food system continues to transform and restructure.

Primary Agriculture

  • Favourable market conditions have enabled the sector to grow and allowed a number of farms to diversify their production to include non-traditional crops. In particular, drought in the U.S. in the summer of 2012 drove up grain and oilseed prices. Grain and oilseed receipts increased by $13.1 billion between 2002 and 2012, and accounted for the largest share (41.3%) of the total value of all farm market receipts in 2012. Overall, market receipts increased in value by 55.9% between 2002 and 2012. Those from the sale of special crops have more than doubled in that time. Receipts from red meat sales, however, have fallen over this period.

  • Farm performance, as measured by farm income and net worth, continued to remain strong overall. Net cash income among Canadian farms in 2012 was $13.3 billion—48.7% above the 2007-2011 average, and 17.6% above the 2011 net cash income. The net value added is estimated to have reached $16.2 billion in 2012—46.4% higher than the 2002-2011 average, and 1.8% above the previous record high in 2008. Canada-wide, the average net worth per farm was $1.7 million in 2011, an increase of 9.5% over 2010.

  • The composition of farm operators is also changing. An increasing proportion of farms are being operated solely by young operators (those 18 to 39 years of age), despite an aging population. These young farmers have an average of 11 years of farming experience.

Food and Beverage Processing

  • The food and beverage processing industry produces goods using both primary and processed products as inputs. It is important for the growth of the primary agricultural industry as primary commodities accounted for about 46% of the total value of material inputs used by the food processing industry in 2009.

  • The food and beverage processing industry is the largest of all manufacturing industries in Canada, accounting for the largest share (15.9%) of the total manufacturing sector's GDP in 2012. It also accounted for the largest share (16.7%) of the jobs in the manufacturing sector. The industry continues to grow and the value of shipments more than doubled since 1992, reaching $93.7 billion in 2012.


  • Canadians spent $183.9 billion on food, beverages and tobacco products in 2012. This represented the second largest household expenditure category after shelter, accounting for 18.6% of all Canadian household spending in 2012.

  • Food expenditures accounted for a smaller share of total household expenditures on goods and services in Canada than in several other OECD countries. For example, food accounted for 10.6% of total household expenditures in Canada, and 13.0% in the U.S.

Government Expenditures in Support of the Sector

  • Expressed in dollar terms, government expenditures (federal and provincial) in support of the agriculture and agri-food sector are expected to increase to $6.8 billion in 2012-13. However, as a share of the agriculture GDP, government expenditures are estimated to be 22.1% in 2012-13.

  • Research and inspection expenditures and program payments at the federal level make up the largest portion of government support to the agriculture and agri-food sector. 

  • Public investments in research and development (R&D) in the agriculture and agri-food sector represent a critical source of innovation and productivity growth. R&D expenditures, of which the majority are incurred by the federal government, are estimated to rise to $602 million in 2012-13.

To request an electronic copy of the full report, please contact:

Departmental Publications Service

Farming Facts 2002
An interesting overview of Agriculture in Canada in pdf format.
The Real Dirt on Farming 2011
An excellent pdf publication giving a very good overview on the farming industry.
Julie Plamondon
Corporate Communications, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Virtual Farm Tours
You'll meet the farmers who put food on our tables 365 days each year; you'll see the animals that live on many of these farms and you'll learn about the work that goes into growing a wide variety of crops. Enjoy!
While the number of farmers has dwindled, our productivity has soared. Where our grandparents or great grandparents could produce enough food for 10 people, today's farmer can feed well over 120. At the same time, we're using fewer resources, less land and newer, better technologies to produce high quality, Canadian products. This will be especially important as Canadian farmers strive to do their part to feed a growing world population.
History of Farming in Ontario
By C. C. James (1914).
First Lessons on Agriculture for Canadian Farmers and their Families
by Egerton Ryerson, 2nd Edition (1871) (pdf)
A Farm Home in Ontario
A publication of the Minister of Agriculture of Ontario
Potato Growing in Canada
By the Canadian Department of Agriculture
Oats in Canada
By the Canadian Department of Agriculture
Sheep Husbandry in Canada
By the Canadian Department of Agriculture
Sheep Farming in Canada
Taken from the Colonial Advocate, Thursday, June 3, 1824. Published by W. L. Mackenzie, Bookseller, Queenston, Upper Canada.
Swine Husbandry in Canada
By the Canadian Department of Agriculture
Wheat Growing in Canada
By William Saunders
Salmon Farming in Canada

A success story and a link to learn more.
Pulse Industry
Pea, lentil, bean, chickpea, mustard, sunflower, canary seed and buckwheat.
Strawberry Crop
Looking at the Strawberry industry in Canada.
Sheep Raising in British Columbia
An interesting booklet from the Department of Agriculture (pdf)
Deep Furrows
Which Tells of Pioneer trails along which the Farmers of Western Canada fought their way to Great Achievements in Co-Operation by Hopkins Moorhouse (1918) (pdf)
Dry Farming in Western Canada
By John Bracken (1921) (pdf)
Farming, Ranching and Social Conditions in Western Canada (pdf)
Farming in Alberta (pdf)
Scotch Tenant-Farmers
On the Agricultural Resources of Canada. The Reports of Mr. John Steven, Purroch Farm, Hurlford, Ayrshire; and Mr. Alex. Fraser, Balloch of Culloden, Inverness, on their visit to Canada in 1893. (pdf)
Fruit Farming in Ontario
Studies of Plant Life in Canada
Wild Flowers, Flowering Shrubs, and Grasses by Mrs. C. P. Traill (1906) (pdf)
EatRight Ontario
Talk to a registered Dietitian for free.
The Agricultural Gazette of Canada
Editor: J. B. Spencer, B.S.A. (1918) (pdf)
Fruit Growing in Canada
By John Craig (pdf)
We are the best
Agriculture videos of Canada [external link]
Hunger for tomatoes turns Canada into greenhouse superpower

Science at DFO
The video that you are about to see is designed to give you a bit of a snapshot overview of our Sector, its depth, its breadth, its incredible scope, you’ll get a chance to get a feel for the wide, wide array of work that we do from coast to coast to coast, at sea, on land and occasionally even in the air. [external link]
Romance of the Grain Growers of Saskatchewan, History, Aims and Objects. (pdf)
Bulletins from Ontario Agricutural College and Department of Agriculture
Nos. 181 to 208 (1913) (pdf)
Seafood Fraud and Mislabelling Across Canada

By Oceania Canada (pdf)
The Canadian Horticulturist
Published by the Fruit Growers Association of Ontario
Farming in Canada
Or Life in the Back Woods by Frank Lynn, F.R.C.S. (pdf)
The Historical Overview of Canadian Agriculture
One of the publications in the 1996 Census of Agriculture series of products (pdf)
Canadian Vegetables for Every Day
By Edith L. Elliot (1936) (pdf)
Canadian Dairying
By Henry H. Dean (1903) (pdf)
Buying and storing Canadian Foods for foodservice industry
By Agriculture Canada (1981) (pdf)
Real Farm Lives
A series of videos showing the working life of farms in Canada
State of Canada's Birds
The 2019 summary (pdf)
Canada: Geographical, Agricultural, and Mineralogical Sketch
Published by authority of the Bureau of Agriculture (1865) (pdf)
Cannabis Cultivation

How to own a farm in Western Canada (pdf)

Return to our Industry and Transport Page









This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus