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Photo: James Morgan

Governments helping Ontario agri-food businesses increase online sales

The governments of Canada and Ontario are investing over $3.5 million to help more than 700 businesses in the Ontario agri-food sector establish or expand their online presence. This initiative will provide consumers with more local food choices when shopping from home during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, food producers, farmers markets, retailers, garden centres, greenhouses, nurseries, and agricultural associations are developing or expanding e-commerce ventures this year. By focussing more resources online, Ontario agri-food businesses are broadening their marketing channels, increasing online sales and providing consumers with greater access to a wide variety of food and agriculture products.

“COVID-19 has been a major disruptor and has accelerated change to the way we do business in agriculture,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “This funding announcement today is helping our farm and food businesses to adapt to the new reality and take their sales online to different e-commerce platforms. Not only will these investments support the trend towards buying local, but it has the potential to support more direct-to-consumer sales for our farmers and food businesses.”

“This support is helping many Ontario agri-food businesses better and more quickly adapt to the retail challenges of this unprecedented time and to modernize their operations for the future,” said the Hon. Ernie Hardeman, Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “COVID-19 has changed the way we shop, and our investment in e-business will go a long way to safely connect more retailers with more consumers.”

The Agri-Food Open for E-Business initiative featured two streams of funding. One provided grants of up to $5,000 for eligible applicants to establish an online and marketing presence.

A list of approved and contracted projects for these grants is available at: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/cap/ebusiness-stream1.htm.

The second stream allows eligible organizations, businesses and collaborations to apply for cost-share funding to implement high-impact e-business projects. Projects funded under this category include $75,000 for Farmers’ Markets Ontario to develop an online platform, protocols for logistics of online orders and distribution, as well as marketing and training activities for Ontario’s farmers markets.

A list of approved and contracted projects for this cost-shared funding is available at: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/cap/ebusiness-stream2.htm.

“Being accessible and connecting to customers in new ways has become more important than ever. Both governments are coming together to support Ontario’s agri-food sector, helping it thrive while ensuring customers can shop safely,” said Neil Ellis, Parliamentary Secretary to the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

“Agribusinesses are a major part of growing Ontario’s economy, and have been key to keeping hardworking families fed throughout this pandemic,” said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “This period has been extremely hard on the sector. We’re helping agribusiness weather the storm by linking them to new opportunities to grow their businesses, and sell and advertise online.”

The funding is in addition to other programming launched this year to assist the sector in meeting challenges related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including:

Since June 2018, both the federal and provincial governments have committed support to more than 4,200 projects, through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, to help eligible Ontario farmers, processors, businesses and sector organizations innovate and grow.