Exploring ways to increase the local sales and consumption of Atlantic Canadian food products was the topic of discussion at a meeting of Atlantic agriculture ministers held today, Jan. 12, in Halifax. “Today’s meeting was very productive,” said Nova Scotia Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Chris d’Entremont. “It gave us a better understanding of the needs of the consumer and the retailer. “Getting local food product to the consumer is a priority. We will continue to work together to come up with opportunities that will work for the producer, processor, consumer and retailer.” Atlantic agriculture ministers — including David Alward of New Brunswick; Kevin MacAdam of Prince Edward Island; Mr. d’Entremont and Bruce Saunders, deputy minister of Agriculture for Newfoundland and Labrador — were presented with research on Atlantic Canadian consumers’ knowledge, attitudes and purchasing in the food industry. “The research findings will lay the groundwork for future marketing projects,” said Mr. d’Entremont. “This information helps define the consumer, and helps develop projects focused on selling Atlantic food products to Atlantic Canadians.” Agriculture is an important economic contributor in Atlantic Canada, accounting for $ 1.3 billion in farm cash receipts and an agri-food manufacturing labour force of approximately 15 000. The retail industry was represented by: Jeanne Cruikshank, vice-president for the Canadian Council of Grocery Distributors; Dirk Romyn, Atlantic Wholesalers vice-president of marketing; Tom Cogswell, senior vice-president of franchise operations for Atlantic Wholesalers; Eric Gallant, vice-president of merchandising for Atlantic Wholesalers; John Harvie, CEO of Co-op Atlantic; Robert Lemoine, vice-president of food merchandising division for Co-op Atlantic; and Mike Scott, president, operations, Atlantic region for Sobey’s Inc. The agriculture ministers agree to keep working together to enhance the market access of Atlantic Canadian food products.