Canada’s agriculture industry is grappling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. From all sides, the economic and human toll is far-reaching and still in a rapid state of flux. What the last few weeks have taught us, however, is that there are critical pinch points in our food supply chains that need to be addressed not just now, but also in a broader sense after this is all over.
That’s according to Canadian Senator Robert Black, who has close ties to the agriculture industry and has spent much of this COVID-19 outbreak listening to the needs of the agriculture sector and bringing those needs and asks forward to the government when he can.
Whether it’s the cattle, dairy, mushroom, grain, or even the horse racing industry, Black is fielding calls from all sectors. The message early on was first that we needed to solve the issue of travel bans preventing Temporary Foreign Workers from getting to Canada. While there is still more to do on that front, as many of these employees are not yet in the country, the government did address that issue quickly, Black says.
Now, as we move into week four of social and physical distancing, issues surrounding livestock processing are beginning to compound. Black agrees with the industry that even in the short term, there are needs in the livestock sector that need to be addressed. Right now, the biggest need is that processors stay open and continue to take market-ready animals, whether hogs, beef, poultry, or lamb.
Looking longer-term, farm groups are keeping the pressure on regarding updates and improvements to business risk management programs, and Black says that this time of crisis has really opened many eyes to the risks within Canada’s food supply system that are impediments to self-sufficiency and food security. Black hopes that as we move past this crisis there will be a desire to pull together a group to deal with the pinch points that have been identified so that — going forward — we have a secure domestic food supply.