Ministry officials from Canada recently hosted a business breakfast in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, with the aim of attracting investors to the numerous investment and trade opportunities that exist in the country, particularly in the province of Ontario.

The early-morning meeting was hosted by the Consulate General of Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The event was deemed a success as two UAE-based companies confirmed that they were interested in investing in the country’s food production industry.

Ontario has the distinction of being home to the largest food processing industry in Canada, and the province has attracted many of the world’s biggest food manufacturing and processing companies to set up a base. Its location, with the United States to the south and the Hudson Bay to the north, makes it the perfect distribution hub to access the vast American, Mexican and Canadian markets.

This opportunity is ideal for food manufacturers and processors to gain a foothold in the Canadian and North American food retail market. Today, many retailers are looking to South Asian, Asian and Halal food products with the aim of increasing their market share. Consumers are looking for food that fits into their hectic lifestyles, but they also want to enjoy locally grown and healthy food products.

The food retail sector in Canada generates approximately $87 billion in total sales, with Ontario accounting for $27.7 billion. The province’s culturally diverse population has increased the demand for ethnic food.

From 1998 to 2011, Canada saw foreign direct investment nearly triple from $219.4 billion to $607 billion. This investment has helped the economy tremendously while creating job opportunities for thousands of Canadians.

One of the reasons that many international businesses like to establish a presence in Ontario is its easy access to the US market. The province’s transportation infrastructure integrates effortlessly with the transportation system in the US. This allows businesses to deliver products to the US, Mexico, and beyond quickly and efficiently.

In 2014, food manufacturers based in Ontario exported $12.5 billion in agri-foods to the US, Hong Kong, Russia, Japan and Mexico in addition to the Canadian market. Canada is also an important trade and investment partner to the Middle East. Countries such as Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia are among the top 25 countries that import bakery products from Canada.