ON MONDAY, the BC NDP government introduced a new Buy B.C. e-commerce funding program. The program, available to help the province’s farmers and food and beverage processors overcome some lost sales during the COVID-19 pandemic, was created to provide opportunities to move their products online.
According to Lana Popham’s, Ministry of Agriculture, the government will provide $300,000 to support industry-led Buy B.C. e-commerce activities. The funding is under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Buy B.C. Partnership Program. It helps farmers, ranchers and food and beverage processors market their products as locally grown, raised, harvested or produced, making it easy for British Columbians to Buy B.C.
“With the new Buy B.C. e-commerce funding, farmers and food and beverage processors can create a new avenue to sell their products directly to consumers all over the province, while maintaining physical distancing and safe practices,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture.
“Moving to online sales gives customers the opportunity to continue to Buy B.C. and enjoy fresh food, while supporting families in our communities.”
“Frankly speaking every little bit helps”, Dieter Dudy, the owner of a 10-acre organic farm in Kamloops, told me. “300K is not going to go far but it could make the difference between not having a market and still reaching your customers.”
The government program will provide financial support, by way of a grant of up to $5,000 to access and develop websites that accommodate online sales and helps cover the costs of marketing and shipping products to consumers throughout the province.
According to Dudy, “$5,000 to establish an online presence could translate into sales opportunities that a farmer or small-scale food processor may have otherwise missed.”
Thinking a maximum grant of $5,000 might be on the low side, I spoke with a recently retired individual who established one of B.C.’s pioneer web development, tourism marketing, and e-commerce companies … I asked about that $5,000 figure.
“Actually, that’s pretty generous”, he said. “With WordPress, or online shopping sites like Shopify, costs have dropped immensely for the average e-commerce site.”
He continued, “It’s well thought out and costed … and five-grand should do a good job, if they don’t get gouged, and are willing to do some of the work themselves.”
Still, according to BC Liberal Agriculture critic co-chair, Ian Paton, $300,000 is peanuts to the industry given the millions that have gone elsewhere.
“There’s 500+ food processing companies alone in B.C.,”he said. “They’re making everything from soup mixes, to bags of salad, to cookies, and more – that’s before you include farms and ranches.”
Continuing, Paton commented, “I’m disappointed at what B.C. has thrown at agriculture; it’s so far down the list.”
According to Paton, B.C.’s NDP government should be considering, for example, subsidies to small operators to transport their goods to markets, and, relief on the carbon tax.
“It’s a no-brainer!” he said to me, before continuing, “Why can’t you guys (government) back off on the carbon tax.”
For large scale agriculture operations, Paton said the BC Liberals are calling on government to provide a tax holiday on PST, Employer’s Health Tax, and Carbon Tax for up to 90 days.
And for small scale agriculture operations?
“They are generally not asking for more financial support. Instead, they are looking for opportunities to acquire Class D and E licenses for small scale abattoirs and meat production,” said Paton.
“Small scale operations are also looking for government — and the Agriculture Land Commission (ALC) — to provide opportunities for value added activities on farmland including allowing more farm stands, eateries, and agri-tourism events.”
Still, according to Dudy, “In the interim, an online option will definitely be of help to many needing to reach a customer base.”
Funding for this initiative for B.C. farmers, and food and beverage processors, can be found at https://iafbc.ca/buy-bc/buy-bc-partnership-program-e-commerce-funding-stream/.
To be eligible, an applicant must have at least two years of business revenues, be licensed to do business in B.C. and be growing or processing one or more products in the province. Each successful applicant is eligible to receive up to $5,000.
Alan Forseth is a Kamloops resident and former member of the Reform Party of Canada and the B.C. Reform Party, and a past and current member of the BC Conservative Party. His blog is My Thoughts on Politics and More.