The federal government has announced $162.6 million in additional funding for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) over the next five years, and $40 million per year in added funding for the agency on an ongoing basis after that.

The funding boost, announced by Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, and Health Minister Patty Hajdu on Friday, follows a record year for agri-food and seafood exports.

At $40 million in additional funding, the commitment represents a nearly five per cent increase over the CFIA’s annual budget in 2019-20, which totalled $820 million.

It also appears the government wanted to highlight the increased funding in an announcement separate from the federal budget.

“Our government is investing in the CFIA so that Canada continues to have the best food safety system in the world, with the best science to protect our natural resources and tools that help businesses keep up with the pace of trade,” said Bibeau, in a statement.

The agency has highlighted four priority areas for the new funding: export certification to support market access, oversight of imports, domestic oversight and surveillance, and digitization.

“It will help CFIA digitize their services and issue export certificates in a timely manner. It also means CFIA will have the tools necessary to guard our natural resources and agriculture sector from the threat of foreign pests and diseases,” the ag minister noted.

How the new CFIA funding will be allocated:

Export certification to support market access

  • $20.5M over five years and $5.0M ongoing

Oversight of imports

  • $78.0M over five years and $19.2M ongoing

Domestic oversight and surveillance

  • $43.6M over five years and $10.8M ongoing

Digitization

  • $20.5M over five years and $5.0M ongoing

The government says the funding supports Bibeau’s mandate of “maximizing the government’s policy and financial tools to support the sector, particularly its global export growth potential” — as outlined in her new supplementary mandate letter from the Prime Minister last week.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says agri-food and seafood exports exports grew by 10.1 per cent through the first eleven months of 2020, totalling $67.5 billion compared with $61.4 billion in the same period last year — already exceeding the record of $67 billion set in 2019.

Along with increasing exports, the CFIA is also seeing higher demand for export certification, as the number of certificates issued has grown from around 384 thousand in 2014 to approximately 545 thousand in 2020 — an average increase of 6 per cent per year.

Some of the funding is aimed at helping the CFIA meet growing requirements to inspect agri-food imports, which totalled $53.9 billion in 2019.

“This funding will support the Agency in conducting more inspections of imported shipments, in responding to complaints, and in moving towards prevention as the primary method for keeping food safe, plants protected and animals healthy,” the government says. “This investment will enable the CFIA to enhance domestic and import food controls enacted through the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations and provide guidance and direction on requirements for newly licensed importers. Funding will also help the CFIA analyze sampling and compliance data to improve inspections, policies and regulations.”

Domestically, the government says the funding will be used to help the CFIA further develop response plans for the most significant and likely scenarios for plant pests and animal diseases, as well as increase its presence in “high-risk and remote locations in Canada to conduct more frequent inspections and maintain industry awareness of regulatory requirements in relation to humane transportation and animal traceability.”

On the digital front, the government says the CFIA will use the funding to update its MyCFIA platform to be more user-friendly for regulated businesses, and to help businesses better understand and comply with regulations.

The CFIA operates 13 diagnostic and research laboratories across the country, and employs just over 6,000 staff, including veterinarians, inspectors, and regulatory scientists.

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