Agrifood and Horticulture

Agrifood and horticulture covers every step 'from farm to fork' in the food production chain, including transport and sales. Canada ranks among the world’s top five countries in terms of total value of its agricultural exports. More than 12% of Canada’s workforce is employed in the agrifood sector.

The agrifood sector makes an important contribution to the Canadian economy, accounting for around 10% of GDP. The food and drinks processing industry is its major subsector, generating most jobs. Strikingly, the number of farms has decreased in the past 150 years, while production and sales have increased 500-fold. This is remarkable, given that mass production is not widespread. See the infographic below for more details.

Canadese Agriculture in de afgelopen 150 jaar
Canadian agriculture 1867-2017

Opportunities in Canada

Trade agreements

The Canadian agrifood sector is benefiting from a growing number of trade agreements. Such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), which almost fully entered into force in 2017. One of its effects has been to abolish 90.9% of Canadian duties on agriproducts. The North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Canada is currently re-negotiating with the United States, will also have an impact on the cost, production and trade in agri-food products.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership

Enforcing the international position

In this era of highly competitive and rapidly innovating international trade, Canada is securing its position in the agrifood sector by making major investments. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership, is a five-year, three billion dollar investment by federal, provincial and territorial authorities to strengthen the agriculture sector and enable growth. For a country like the Netherlands, which is a world leader in agrifood production, investments like these present opportunities, in particular in the field of innovation and sustainability.

Landbouw innovatie in Nederland


Achieving sustainable agriculture, and an innovative, competitive agri-food sector presents a major challenge for Canada. Few Canadian farmers are aware of the latest technological developments in their sector. For information on these developments, they tend to rely on suppliers of equipment, who are of course only interested in promoting their own products. Canadian farmers still prefer using small-scale equipment and installations instead of large-scale production equipment. Outdated technologies are often used in combination with newer, computerised installations. Innovation is also an expensive long-term process, entailing risks which many Canadian farmers are unwilling to take.

The Netherlands as a model country in partnerships

Much innovative know-how is already available. Canada has a number of renowned, high-grade food technology centres. However, they often have insufficient capital and resources to make the right connections with industry, or to meet the industry’s wishes or criteria. There are thus few partnerships between knowledge institutions, the business community and government (triple helix) in the agrifood sector. The Netherlands has perfected the triple helix concept, and could act as a model for Canada.

Bronnen bio-energie
Increasing use of biomass in Canada


More with less, that is the aim of the Dutch agrifood top sector. This means producing as much as possible using as few resources and with as little waste as possible. In the Netherlands, the goal is to double added value, while halving input. In Canada, the sector is also aiming for sustainable mass production and efficiency, presenting opportunities for partnerships. Food wastage is a hot issue in Canada at the moment. Households and the retail industry together waste six billion kilograms of food each year – around 30% of total food supplies. The Canadian waste processing sector is trying to prevent this by lobbying for a provincial government ban on throwing organic waste into the trash. With the right technology, organic waste could be converted into bioenergy. Bioenergy is an up-and-coming sector in Canada.

Opportunities for the Netherlands in Canada

The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world after the US. Our excellent logistics network means that vegetables harvested in the Netherlands can be on sale in Canada later the same day. The Netherlands is the sixth largest European exporter to Canada. There are many opportunities in the sizeable Canadian agricultural sector for Dutch innovations.

Our priorities

The Netherlands’ economic network in Canada has identified the following priorities for the agrifood sector up to 2019:

  • Ensure more cohesion and integration within the sector.
  • Step up cooperation between knowledge institutions, the business community and government authorities in accordance with the triple helix concept.
  • Commit to further sustainability in, for example, smart farming, bioeconomy strategies, postharvest chain management, urban farming, safety and health.

If your business operates in the agrifood sector and you are interested in exporting to or trading with Canada, contact one of our economic departments in Canada in the area you are interested in.

CETA and Agri-food and Horticulture

A growing number of trade agreements influence the Canadian agriculture and food sector. CETA is the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union. It eliminates import tariffs on practically all products. It also makes it easier to supply services abroad and to obtain work permits for staff members. Benefits for the agri-food sector are as follows.

  • CETA eliminates 90% of all import tariffs on agricultural products.
  • Access to the Canadian dairy market will be expanded – in some cases exports to Canada will be doubled.
  • CETA protects Dutch innovations and copyrights.
  • CETA provides a framework for promoting the trade in animal and vegetable products.
  • CETA includes agreements on animal welfare.
  • Service providers and investors have greater access to the Canadian market.

More information on the implications of CETA for your business and opportunities in Canada.

MISSING: 'Did you know that...

Other sources

The agricultural counsellors network (LAN) (information in Dutch) also supports Dutch businesses and entrepreneurs with international ambitions in the agriculture sector. For more information on doing business within the agrifood top sector, check out the website of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

The Canadian government’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Department also has an informative website.

Contact us

If your business operates in one or more of the above sectors and you are interested in exporting to or doing business in Canada, contact one of our economic departments in Canada.