B.C.'s farm and food product industry is growing, even though the number of farmers isn't.
Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick hosted farmers and food producers at the B.C. legislature Tuesday to mark B.C. Agrifoods Day and announce that sales of B.C. food products set a record of $12.3 billion in 2014. That's up 5.9 per cent from the previous year, which was up 3.5 per cent from 2012.
"Local people are buying local products, that's a big part," Letnick said in an interview. "Our exports are increasing. We've had a record year, just under $3 billion in exports."
Two thirds of B.C. export sales go to the U.S. China is second with $264 million in sales, and Japan bought $199 million worth in 2014.
"Our number one agri-food product continues to be dairy," Letnick said. "Number two is farmed salmon, so that might be news to a few people."
Abbotsford dairy farmer Jared DeJong attended the ceremony and offered a plea to the next generation of B.C. residents to stay with their family farms.
"Today there are many multi-generational family farms where the future is in doubt, as the next generation ponders what they're going to do with their career," DeJong said. "We need to not only secure the current generation of young farmers, but also attract new bright young talent to agriculture and into the thousands of key agriculture jobs across the province in the years to come."
With family farms and new farmers, is B.C.'s farm base growing?
"We're holding our own," Letnick said. "We're at about 20,000 farm families, which has been pretty steady. There are about 55,000 people employed in agriculture and agrifoods, again that's pretty steady. We are seeing higher productivity on the land, so that helps."
He said the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement bodes well for B.C. It proposes phasing out tariffs in Asian countries on B.C. salmon, halibut, herring, crab, geoduck, blueberries, fresh and frozen vegetables, pork and icewine.