Agri-food sector needs long-term vision to prepare for future crisis, report suggests

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For the most part, there are plans in place if (and when) a crisis were to hit agriculture in the short-term. But what about the long-term?

That’s exactly what a new report from the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) is looking to tackle.

Al Mussell, research lead for CAPI, says Canada currently lacks a coherent plan for where the agriculture sector is headed long-term — which makes it very difficult to plan for potential roadblocks that could happen along the way.

“The lack of a long-term vision for the Canadian agri-food sector constrains effective research strategic and analysis,” explains Mussell. “Without knowing where we want the sector to go, it’s difficult to identify potential challenges down the road and develop proactive strategies.”

The report, entitled “The Canadian Agri-Food Resilience: A Toolbox for Managing Crisis,” looks at how Canada can improve its ability to handle multiple crisis that may come together and affect multiple levels of the supply chain simultaneously — without shutting it down. As Mussell explains, currently we have programs that are designed to handle isolate issues like a bad year or two for a single commodity, but this isn’t necessarily an adequate answer for long-term changes and disruptions.

Some of the recommendations made include developing new tools beyond existing business risk management programs, such as crop insurance — which, as Mussel notes, is a program that assumes problems will correct themselves within three to five years. (Story continues below video)

Mussell says that we need to view crisis more holistically and consider impacts beyond individual commodities, otherwise, we may find ourselves ill-prepared when severe weather, disease, or geopolitical shifts converge in unexpected ways.

“We like to think of the world is we have a disturbance, and then it reverts back to the average situation,” he explains. “We’re always bringing things back to this long-term average, we correct for these disturbances. But actually, when you deal with some of these potential big ugly disruptions, you never get back to the average. It’s a sort of dynamic in which things can sort of spin out of control.

“You may get back to some new stable point, but it’s not the one you were at before.”

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