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Atlantic Canada's food processing hit hard by consolidation

Seafood industry was hit the hardest, with declining catches of 25 per cent

A new report says consolidation in Atlantic Canada's food processing sector has significantly reduced the region's work force over the last decade, while cutting the number of plants by nearly 25 per cent.

The report released Tuesday by the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council says about 21,000 workers were employed in more than 800 plants across the region last year, but that's 10,300 fewer workers than in 2005.

The report says the drop represents 86 per cent of all employment reductions in food manufacturing nationally.

Senior policy analyst Fred Bergman says declining catches of 25 per cent over the period saw the seafood industry hardest hit, although it remains the largest part of the region's food manufacturing sector.

The report says even with fewer operations Atlantic food manufacturing shipments expanded by almost one-quarter over the last decade, although that number was significantly below national levels where sales increased 41 per cent.

Food manufacturing sales in 2014 were $7.3 billion, or about 22 per cent of the region's overall manufacturing sales.

The report says an increased focus on exports to countries with a rising per capita consumption of seafood such as China, could provide the sector with opportunities for growth.

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