Prairie Post (West Edition)
U of C’s School of Public Policy examines agri-food supply chain
Canada’s agri-food supply chain was tested bigtime during COVID - it did well domestically - now can our ag exports help kickstart our economy?
Canada is the world’s fifth largest agri-food exporter, exporting half of its production, for an annual export value of C$56 billion. The shock delivered by COVID-19 was unprecedented in its swiftness and magnitude. It represented a major test of the resiliency of Canadian agri-food supply chains, in both domestic and export.
If the ultimate measure of resilient food supply chains is providing safe, reliable availability of food, it is clear that Canadian agri-food supply chains have proven to be highly resilient to the shocks COVID-19 presents.
Last week, The School of Public Policy with author’s May T. Yeung and William A. Kerr released a report that examines the resiliency of Canada’s agri-food supply chains.. The paper dives into the existing agri-food trade and future growth forecasts providing the background for Canada’s targeted recovery through accelerated growth into these markets. The impact of COVID-19 on international agrifood trade is also discussed including a snapshot of new import challenges as well as forecast consumer demand. The report provides a framework by which new or expanded opportunities for agri-food exports can be assessed with solid recommendations whereby Canadian supply chains can grow.
According to the authors, “While the pandemic has not yet run its course, in a few months Canadian agri-food supply chains returned to the high levels of efficiency they possessed prior to COVID-19. Agri-food supply chains cannot adjust to shocks instantaneously. The food arriving today is the result of decisions taken months or even years ago. It is a flow that cannot be increased, slowed or diverted easily. Adjustments to shocks take time and may have widespread consequences. COVID-19 brought shocks to both the domestic agri-food market, and the international export market for Canada. Unlike other sectors of an economy that can be shut down in a pandemic, people still need to eat. Disruptions to supply were overcome relatively quickly; thus, Canadian international agri-food chains proved to be resilient and adept at finding work-arounds when problems arose.”
Canadian international agri-food supply chains have proven that they can bounce back from the serious challenges of COVID-19. They should now leverage that resilience for new opportunities to export. By 2050, the world’s population is forecast to be nearly 10 billion people, all of whom will require food. Canada is one of the few countries in the world with the capacity to produce significantly more food than its domestic needs and is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by a growing global population.