Canada News

COTA hosts first Organic Gala & Leadership Awards Dinner

The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) hosted its inaugural Organic Gala Leadership Awards Dinner in Vancouver, British Columbia, in April. The event brought together nearly 100 members and industry leaders from across the organic sector to celebrate the accomplishments of organic actors. The 2017 Organic Leadership award winners were:

Organic Supplier of the Year:  Left Coast Naturals 

Demonstrating commitment to organic by being the first distributor in North America to have a formal Non-GMO Policy.

Organic Retailer of the Year: Community Natural Foods

Carrying 98-99% fully certified organic produce and extensive staff education training programs.

Organic Champions of the Year: Justin Henry from Northern Divine Aquafarms Ltd. and Tim Rundle from Pacific Organic Seafood Association

Contributing to and participating in the development of the Canadian Organic Aquaculture Standards 32.312.

Organic Innovator of the Year: Nature’s Path 

Feeding young minds through the creation of its Ecokeepers program and the launch of the industry's first superfood sprouted grain cereal Qi’a Superflakes™.

Congratulations to our award winners. If you know a company, farm or association that exemplifies the principles of organic, keep them in mind for our 2018 Organic Leadership Awards!

COTA Holds Strategic Retreat

By Tia Loftsgard

Over the course of two days, the COTA Board met in January for its annual strategic Board Retreat. With only one year remaining on COTA’s 2014-2018 Strategic plan, this year’s retreat started envisioning where COTA would like to be in the future.

Inspiring discussions, new perspectives, lofty projects and goals set the tone. It was exciting to imagine what the next era of organic will bring in Canada, and how COTA will make grand strides forward, guiding the organic industry and the Canadian government to positive results. As the organizational capacity of COTA increases and the response from government seems quite warm to organic, the Board provided strategic insights on what opportunities and new services COTA could offer to feed into the development of our next five-year strategic plan commencing July 2018. 

We thank our volunteer Board members for their generous contributions of time and insights to the effective governance of COTA. The expertise, vision and commitment of the COTA Board make our association a much stronger entity, and continue to push the COTA team to expand its efforts for the benefits of the organic industry.

Safe Food Regulations update

By Lauren Martin

To protect Canadian families from potentially unsafe food, the Government of Canada passed the Safe Food for Canadians Act in 2012. The Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) brings the Act into force, and consolidates 14 sets of existing regulations into one. This means that Canada’s organic regulations have found themselves a new home under Part 14 of the SFCR. On January 21, the new SFCR was included in the Gazette 1, giving consumers and industry 90 days to comment on the new regulations. 

COTA collaborated with organic organizations across the country to put together a comprehensive feedback document reflecting the changes we as a sector want to see implemented in the proposed SFCR. A summary of the recommendations resulting from COTA’s industry consultation efforts have been submitted to the Canadian government. 

As part of the lobbying response to the SFCR, COTA organized a delegation of organic sector representatives to meet in April with Minister Lawrence MacAuley, Federal Minister of Agriculture, where we presented our vision of how to grow the organic opportunity. While the primary focus was a discussion of the concerns brought by the proposed SFCR, the delegation also took the opportunity to voice apprehensions regarding the excessive cost of updating the Canadian Organic Standards and the restructuring of the Canadian Organic Office. 

The cumulative “ask” in both our recommendations for the proposed SFCR and in the Ministerial meeting was to present the rationale for a new piece of legislation specific to organic. Although regulation via the SFCR may be immediately inevitable given that the SFCR is in its final stages, the organic industry has requested that the Government of Canada consider the limitations imposed on the organic sector by being confined within a food safety regime such as the SFCR. Since organic is not singularly a question of agriculture, health, environment or food safety, but rather all-encompassing of these areas and more, COTA believes that a stand-alone act is required to regulate the industry effectively and efficiently.

COTA’s Export Program grows trade in key markets

By Kirsten Cole

With organic exports valued at an estimated $671 million, Canada continues to seek new trade avenues for its growing organic production. COTA’s organic Export Program develops opportunities with Canada’s most important trade partners. These include markets where Canada has established organic equivalencies: the United States, European Union, Japan, Switzerland and Costa Rica, collectively representing nearly 90 percent of global demand for organic products.

In 2017-2018, COTA will host a variety of activities to enable export-ready members to access or further develop key international opportunities. Since 2012, the program has generated over $15 million in direct sales and countless new industry leads. This year’s plan offers programs supporting companies to walk or exhibit at important organic shows, attend pre-arranged B2B meetings with foreign buyers, and participate as delegates of international trade missions. COTA will also develop an Export Directory for all members who wish to list their products or services.

Export opportunities

Incoming buyers’ mission, CHFA East Trade Show in Toronto (September 2017): COTA will host an incoming international buyers’ mission at the annual CHFA East show, featuring one-on-one meetings with targeted buyer contacts.

Natural Products Expo East (September 2017): Funding is available for a limited number of members exhibiting at the Expo East show. Spaces are also available in the walker program for companies looking to explore the show without a booth. 

NatExpo Trade Show (October 2017): COTA will return to this bi-annual trade show, a dedicated organic and natural show in the EU’s second largest organic market. COTA will host a pavilion of organic companies and a number of walkers.

Japan Trade Show and Mission: For the third year, COTA will host a delegation of organic companies in Japan. This activity will take place in conjunction with a key trade show and will enable companies to exhibit as well as take part in important B2B opportunities [final dates to be confirmed].  

EU Trade Mission: COTA will host a trade mission in the EU this year around a targeted market [to be confirmed].

BioFach (February 2018): COTA will host an incubator booth at BioFach, and support member exhibitors and walkers. 

Natural Products Expo West (March 2018): Expo West is the largest U.S. trade show for organic products and a key business opportunity for the industry. COTA will host a networking and educational seminar for members, and offer a limited number of funding spaces for exhibitors and walkers at the show. 

COTA celebrates 10 years this october

October 17-18, 2017, will mark the sixth annual Parliament Hill Day & Policy Conference hosted by COTA in Ottawa, ON. This annual event brings together COTA members, policymakers and organic industry stakeholders to discuss timely regulatory and policy topics within our sector.

This past year's policy conference opened the floor to speakers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and academic researchers to address such pertinent organic sector topics as the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, the shortage of organic data and new research climate research related to organic agriculture. COTA organized nine private meetings with relevant Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament (MP), and hosted an organic reception inside Parliament Hill for MPs, Senators, political staffers and organic industry leaders. 

We plan to make this year’s Parliament Hill Day & Policy Conference even better. With COTA's 10th year anniversary coinciding with this year’s upcoming Hill Day, we want to celebrate the achievements of the organic sector, the milestones we have reached together in the past decade, and set forth with new connections and strategies that continue to nurture our growing organic industry.

We look forward to celebrating with you in October!  //


Photo Caption: COTA and organic sector representatives meet with Federal Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAuley (third from right).