Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS)

Industrial Summary


NAICS 1111-1119; 1121-1129; 1151-1152

The agriculture industry is composed of three segments: crop production (63% of total production in 2016); animal production (24%); and related support activities (13%). Crop production includes oilseeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, plants and vines. Animal production is the process of raising cattle, hog, poultry and other animals for generating meat, egg and dairy products. It also includes aquaculture and apiculture. Examples of related support activities are harvesting, fertilizing and sterilizing services, and any services related to raising livestock, including companion animals. Crop production is highly export-oriented, while animal production is mostly domestic-oriented. The industry employed a total of 289,200 workers in 2016, with 45% in crop production and 47% in animal production. Employment is largely concentrated in Ontario (27%), Quebec (20%), Alberta (18%) and Saskatchewan (14%). The workforce is characterized by a high proportion of men (70%) and self-employed (59%). Key occupations (4-digit NOC) include:

  • Managers in agriculture (0821)
  • General farm workers (8431)
  • Agriculture service contractors, farm supervisors and specialized livestock workers (8252)
  • Nursery and greenhouse workers (8432)
  • Harvesting labourers (8611)
  • Managers in horticulture (0822)
  • Aquaculture and marine harvest labourers (8613)
  • Contractors and supervisors, landscaping, grounds maintenance and horticulture services (8255)
  • Transport truck drivers (7511)
  • Managers in aquaculture (0823)

The industry is very sensitive to weather conditions, to fluctuations in global demand and world prices for agriculture products, and to economic activity in the food processing and services industries. It has also encountered several challenges over the past decade, including the emergence of major competitors on global markets (such as Brazil and China) as well as international health and safety concerns which resulted in a series of trade restrictions against the industry (from the United States, European Union, China and Russia). While those factors led to significant fluctuations in production over the period 2007-2016, the resulting pace of growth in real GDP remained solid, averaging 3.5% annually. Output growth came mostly from crop production, as growth in livestock production was much more modest. The rise in crop production was primarily driven by an improvement in planting methods and stronger exports, supported by growing demand for corn and canola from the biofuels industry. Despite healthy growth in output, employment in the industry contracted at an average pace of 1.8% annually from 2007 to 2016, as increased global competition and market pressures forced the industry to lower its costs of production and restructure toward fewer and larger farms. This means that output growth was entirely achieved through productivity gains resulting from farm consolidation, a changing mix of products, and advanced technologies such as dairy cow self-milkers, precision seeding equipment, and the use of drones to survey crops and land area.

Over the period 2017-2026, real GDP growth in agriculture is projected to average 1.9% annually, a significant slowdown relative to the previous ten years. The adverse impact of climate change is expected to be the main reason explaining this slowdown. Although the general increase of temperature may grant farmers in Canada a longer period of crop growth, greater fluctuations in seasonal patterns may prove to be disruptive to the harvesting of these crops. The increase in production is expected to be driven by global demand for food and the growing use of biofuels. The outlook for exports is positive, supported by emerging markets with high population and wealth growth such as the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and better access to the lucrative markets of the European Union through the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). However, rising protectionism in the United States, increased global competition and stricter labelling and environmental regulations are expected to represent the most important challenges for farmers and livestock producers, in addition to climate change. Since much of the mechanization of processes and adoption of output-enhancing technologies have taken place over the last ten years, investments in new technologies are not expected to be as robust over the projection period, leading to weaker growth in productivity. As a result, employment in the industry is projected to keep declining over the 2017-2026 horizon, but at a slower pace relative to the previous decade, down by 0.7% annually. Difficulties to attract domestic workers due to the seasonal nature of the industry, its rural location, low wages and long hours have resulted in greater utilization of foreign temporary workers in agriculture.

Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Agriculture

Figure showing the annual growth of real GDP and employment over the periods 2007-2016 and 2017-2026 for the industry of agriculture. The data is shown on the table following this figure

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

Text Version of Figure Real GDP and Employment Growth Rates in Agriculture, 2007-2016 and 2017-2026, in Percent
  Real GDP Employment
2007-2016 3.4 -1.8
2017-2026 1.9 -0.7

Source: Statistics Canada (historical) and ESDC 2017 COPS industrial scenario (projections).

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