01/07/2013 07:00 EST | Updated 03/09/2013 05:12 EST

CFIA reorganizing food expertise into hubs

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is reorganizing its delivery of expert advice to producers and consumers.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced the changes Monday at a CFIA lab in Saskatoon, noting the government will create 16 information hubs for farmers, fishers and foresters needing advice on growing and selling their products.

Ritz explained that people in the various sectors want a more co-ordinated source of information, especially when it comes to trade rules and food safety.

"What this does is gives industry and even consumers an opportunity to call in and ask questions from the experts in certain fields," Ritz said.

The Saskatoon offices of CFIA will become the home base for experts on grains and oilseeds as well as fertilizer.

Ritz said the centre will be able to answer questions about newly developed crop strains, strategies to increase yields and best practices related to food safety.

For example, a canola company needing information on export regulations on food-grade canola will have one-stop access to the relevant rules.

The reorganization will be done with existing budgets.

The hubs are to specialize in an activity concentrated in a given region such as shell fishing in Moncton, N.B., and forestry in Burnaby, B.C.

Ritz said producers located far from any centre will be able to get advice through a toll-free number or digital means.