Thanks very much, Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for being here today.
I would like to clarify one thing on the food processing side.
Mr. Johnston, you feel there is very little agricultural support for food processors. I want to at least make my colleagues aware that under AgriFlexibility, we announced $50 million for the agrifood processing sector. It's available up to 2014. To date $20 million of that $50 million has been allocated through 35 agreements. If we go with the numbers that were presented with the proposals, it should be creating over 550 jobs.
I know there have been other investments too. For example, there is Food Beverage Canada, Alberta's technology institute—I think you mentioned that—and other initiatives like that to help the food processing sector.
It is an important sector. I think it's a sector that's in high demand. As life becomes busier, Canadians have a desire for processed foods. When our food processors are presenting their products, I know they're trying to do it in a way that will be of true benefit to Canadians, a way that is nutritious and well presented, so that they become a natural choice by Canadians.
I want to ask a few things. First, when I think of processed foods, there is a wide scale. At the lower end, I would say there is taking fresh garlic, mincing it up, and putting it in a vacuum-packed jar. That's food that's been processed to some extent. Then I'm thinking of the other end perhaps, where you can have a whole meal presented to a consumer.
When you're thinking of the food processing sector in general, I'm sure you would span that spectrum as well, but where is the preponderance, I suppose, of the food processing industry?
As well, where is the growth within the sector? What are Canadians looking for?
I know that when I am in grocery stores, I see products changing. I see new products that weren't there before and I see old products that are being presented in a different way, with newer packaging and different attributes. I'm assuming that's what Canadians are wanting and willing to choose.
I wonder if you could share your thoughts with the committee about where the growth is within the sector, and how the sector is meeting that.