VICTORIA -- Farmers in British Columbia reported record sales of agricultural products last year, bolstered in part by a $300-million increase in cannabis sales.

The province's agriculture ministry says last year's record-setting $3.9 billion in cash receipts is proof the industry's economic foundations are solid, even as COVID-19 continues to ravage the B.C. economy.

The $3.9 billion in sales represents an increase of more than 13 per cent, or $462 million, over the previous record set in 2018.

"We know the pandemic has impacted farmers greatly this year, but the farming sector's record economic growth in 2019 sets the sector up for a strong recovery," said B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham in a statement Tuesday.

"COVID-19 has opened our eyes to the importance of our province's self-sufficiency. I urge everyone to continue to show their appreciation for our farmers and support our local food system by making a special effort to Buy BC."

The largest growth area was reported in the cannabis sector, which saw an increase in sales of approximately $300 million, according to the province.

Cannabis was followed by dairy sales, which increased by $47 million; beef sales, which increased by $25 million; and a $17.5-million increase in field vegetable sales.

Other areas that saw increased sales include eggs ($14 million), nursery ($14 million), chicken ($12 million), blueberries ($7 million), grapes ($5.6 million) and grains and oilseeds ($2.7 million).

The agriculture ministry says more British Columbian farm workers are needed to ensure the province's farm sector remains strong.

"Connecting more British Columbians to agriculture jobs and careers is more important than ever as we work to restart the economy and keep this momentum going," Popham said. "We are working together with industry as we focus on restarting our farming sector."