Ontario needs more cheesemakers to fill growing demand
Ontario consumers continue to crave all things local, including locally-made cheese. A recent survey of Ontario’s cheese manufacturers uncovered an urgent need to train more cheesemakers to feed the growing interest and demand for Ontario cheese.
Ontario Dairy Council’s (ODC) members process 97% of the milk produced in Ontario to manufacture a wide range of dairy products, including cheese. With funding support through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the organization recently surveyed all cheese processors in the province to assess the growth needs of this sector that generates more than $6 billion in annual sales.
Based on projected growth, turnover and retirement, Ontario dairy processors estimate that more than 200 new cheesemakers will be needed to serve this sector in the next decade. That’s more than the number currently in the province. Training was identified as an urgent requirement to be able to supply the cheese manufacturing sector with skilled cheesemakers.
Identifying the needs for Ontario cheesemakers has attracted interest across Canada, and drawn attention to the greater need for skills development and training, according to Stacee Sokoloff, Manager of Member Services and Communications with Ontario Dairy Council. “We also collaborated with the Food Processing Human Resource Council, who recently completed the development of the National Occupational Standard for Cheesemaker (NOS). In collaboration with Colleges Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, we will be sharing our research with Ontario colleges and other industry stakeholders in early April,” says Sokoloff. “In late 2013, Canada entered into the Canada-European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Canada Economic and Trade Agreement which will allow for more than 17,000 tonnes of additional imported European cheeses to enter the Canadian market. It’s increasingly urgent for cheese manufacturers to stay innovative and competitive to maintain and grow their markets.”
Stepping up the skills training will ensure the next wave of Ontario cheesemakers is equipped to keep feeding consumers’ endless appetite for local.
This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.