Governments Must Act Now to Strengthen Canada’s Food Supply Chain: Chamber ReportApril 12, 2021
(Toronto – April 12, 2021) – During the COVID-19 crisis, Canada’s food supply chain experienced numerous pressures, ranging from panic buying to temporary shortages to the rapid shift to e-commerce for grocery stores, farmers, and restaurants. The latest report by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC), Growing a More Resilient Food Supply Chain in Ontario, outlines why public policymakers need to take note and take action on issues such as rising food insecurity and food fraud as well as supporting the demand for local food and the shift to online sales to help grow a stronger agri-food sector.
“COVID-19 brought our agri-food system and supply chains to the forefront. We can all remember food flying off the shelves due to stockpiling and panic buying at the outset of the pandemic. Ultimately, while the pandemic caused parts of Ontario’s food supply chain to bend, the chain itself did not break,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
The report examines issues that emerged in the last 12 months and other longstanding ones that were exacerbated by COVID-19. It explains how Canada’s food system continued to provide Canadians with uninterrupted access to food throughout the pandemic due to the strength of the many sub-sectors and businesses that make up the food supply chain. However, the pandemic put a spotlight on why we need to take action – so the system never gets to a breaking point.
“Addressing red tape and labour shortages among farmers, as well as tackling food fraud and food insecurity, will not only ensure Canada’s agri-food sector is able to withstand future challenges, but it will also support agri-food businesses and an equitable recovery,” added Rossi.
The recommendations outlined in Growing a More Resilient Food Supply Chain aim to strengthen the agri-food sector – a sector that is not only a significant economic driver in Ontario and Canada but also a competitive advantage. Specifically, the report makes a series of recommendations aimed at federal and provincial policymakers:
- Meet the demand for local food and shift to online sales by continuing to invest in relevant programs that help producers transition to e-commerce;
- Improve the AgriStability program by increasing the payment cap and payment trigger, and processing claims more quickly;
- Remove red tape facing farmers, including inter-provincial trade barriers for meat and meat products;
- Support the next generation of farmers by attracting youth to the sector and reducing other barriers to entry like access to land and capital;
- Curb food fraud through improved seafood labelling and a pragmatic plan; and
- Eliminate food insecurity by collecting data, setting targets, and investing in road development in Indigenous and remote communities.
“The agri-food sector contributes over $47 billion to the annual GDP and supports over 860,000 jobs across the province. The pandemic has awakened Ontarians’ interest in local food and increased their appreciation for farmers. These producers quickly pivoted at the start of the pandemic and have continued to provide consumers with uninterrupted access to fresh, nutritious, and safe food during this crisis. Given the labour shortage facing the agricultural sector, the province needs to raise awareness of our sector and encourage young people to consider a career in this vibrant and tech-driven sector.” – Cathy Lennon, General Manager, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
“Put simply, farming has become increasingly risky and costly in recent years. The risks facing local producers have markedly changed. Ontario farmers need well-funded government programs that mitigate risks, provide timely support, and preserve the strength of the agricultural sector. The core business risk management program in Ontario – the AgriStability program – requires several reforms to better meet this new reality.” – Richard Horne, Executive Director of the Beef Farmers of Ontario
“The economic downturn brought on by COVID-19 has increased food insecurity across the country. Community Food Centres Canada estimates that one in seven Canadians are skipping meals or going entire days without eating – a situation that has severe and long-term health and mental health implications. Bold solutions are needed, and that includes increasing access to innovative programs, facilities, and expertise that will continue to improve access to fresh, local food across Ontario.” – Tony Doyle, Dean, W. Galen Weston Centre for Food, Durham College
About the Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Together with almost 140 member chambers of commerce and boards of trade and our network’s diverse 60,000 members, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce is the indispensable partner of business. For more than a century, the OCC has undertaken important research on Ontario’s most pressing policy issues, advocating for solutions that will foster the growth of Ontario businesses and lead to the creation of jobs in the province. Our mission is to convene, align, and advance the interests of our members through principled policy work, value-added business services, and broad engagement to build prosperity for all Ontarians.
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