I was recently in St. Louis and heard a presentation by Kerry Preete the Senior Vice President of Monsanto. For those not familiar with Monsanto, it is a Fortune 500 company known worldwide for the development of high-yielding conventional and biotech seeds that enable more nutritious and durable crops. When asked about the future of their business, Mr. Preete answered …:”With a global population increasing by 250,000 people per day – we will always have a market.”
That comment made me reflect upon Hamilton’s strengths in agricultural & food processing. Few people appreciate the fact that agriculture is a $1.3 Billion industry in our community. Nor do they realize that 66% of our City is rural which is significant when you consider that only 5% of the Canadian land mass is classified as prime agricultural.
In fact, much of the success in diversifying Hamilton’s economy can be attributed to Agriculture & Food Processing. Local agriculture includes far more than just the traditional growing of crops and raising livestock. In Hamilton, it means “value-added” products like nurseries; poultry and eggs; mushrooms; and some of the best dairy farms in Canada.
Then there is secondary manufacturing which includes over 50 food processing companies such as; Bunge – edible oils; Canada Bread – North America’s largest commercial bakery; Cadbury and Karma Candy – candies and confectionaries; Oak Run Farm Bakeries – bagels, muffins, and other bakery products; Salerno Dairies – cheese products; Tim Horton’s – coffee roasting; and Maple Leaf Foods’ 500,000 s.f. state-of-the-art meat processing facility.
But the economic development impact of agri-business doesn’t stop there. It encompasses agricultural transportation related companies like Parrish & Heimbecker; Richardson International; Sylvite Agri Services; and Westaway Terminal & Feed products.
From the “Great Recession“of 2008 -2009, we learned that no industry is exempt from the effects of an economic downturn. However, considering Mr. Peete’s comment on population growth, the Agriculture & Food Processing sector is as “recession proof” as they come.
Agriculture & Food Processing Statistics:
- The majority of the 227,000 acres of agricultural land base consists of prime agricultural land.
- Food production and distribution is approximately 4% of employment.
- From 2008 to 2009, this sector grew by approximately 300 jobs.
- The bulk of employment in the agri-food sector is in manufacturing and distribution, with about 6000 employees (2009)
- Total average employment in the agri-business cluster in Hamilton is 8773 (2009)
- Hamilton has over 190 companies in agriculture, food manufacturing and distribution
- The majority of these companies are SME’s, but Hamilton is home to some of the country’s largest food processing employers
- Hamilton’s agriculture sector has grown to a $1.3 billion a year industry
By: Neil Everson
Director, Economic Development Division
Planning and Economic Development Department, City of Hamilton