Customers around the world have begun asking Canada for assurances that our supply chain will remain whole during the COVID-19 pandemic and that Canada will be an ongoing reliable supplier of grain. These are valid questions that are shared by Canadian consumers. The lack of flour in most grocery stores is an indication that some believe there might be a break down in supply in the days or weeks to come.
I welcome the opportunity to provide assurances of the continued reliability of the Canadian supply chain amid the current crisis. As a leading global agri-food supplier, the Canadian industry fully appreciates the importance of meeting demand, especially in light of questions related to food security.
To begin it is important to underscore that there are strong supplies available of Canadian grain, including wheat, durum, barley and oats. Canada farmers and grain handlers continue to be in a strong position to keep meeting demand both in Canada as well as abroad. Shipments of Canadian grain are currently moving at a rapid pace with no interruptions at inland elevators where farmers deliver their grain or at port terminals where vessels are loaded. No delays are anticipated.
Across the country, farmers are beginning the spring planting season. It would be wrong to assume that disruptions caused by COVID-19 won’t occur, but Canadian farmers have access to the seed, fertilizer and crop input products they need to plant the 2020 crop.
In Canada, our flour mills are meeting the increased demand caused by a bump in home baking. We are not at risk of running out of flour. Our baking companies will continue to ensure that the products we love like bread and pasta remain on the grocery shelves.
There are a few key reasons why I am confident that the Canadian supply chain will remain operational during the pandemic.
First, shippers and exporters, along with the businesses that support them (e.g., railways and port operations) have established protocols to minimize the risk of infection to their employees. The health and safety of all workers of paramount concern. Farmers delivering grain recently will have seen some of these measures in action, such as restricted access to elevator offices. This is a departure from normal business practice, but the proactive steps taken today will help ensure that these facilities remain open tomorrow. The protocols put in place by links along the supply chain will also help ensure ongoing operations and minimize disruptions should infections occur.
The people who work in agriculture and food value chains are another reason for having confidence in the reliability of Canadian supply. I am pleased that both provincial and federal government authorities have recognized the agriculture and food value chains as critical services and infrastructure and workers in these industries as essential.
Canada’s farmers and those who work in agriculture and food value chains are central to efforts to provide essential services during the current crisis. Canada’s critical agriculture and food infrastructure could not function without them. Canadians and people around the world need a stable supply of food and feed products from Canada in this time of crisis. To maintain food security, it is critically important that we create the conditions that allow workers in our agriculture and agri-food businesses to come to work and that we acknowledge their significant contributions.
The individual essential businesses that ensure that our grocery shelves are stocked, and the needs of our international customers are met, do not operate in isolation. The Canadian supply chain is a partnership of many players. This includes farmers, grain handlers and exporters, railways, truckers, millers and bakers. These links are all supported by a network of public and private research across the country and built upon a foundation of a strong science-based regulatory system.
The Canadian grain industry is well-positioned to help to meet the world’s demand for a secure food supply. Our supply chain is highly efficient and resilient, which is especially important and valuable during this time of crisis. Significant infrastructure investments by all parts of the value chain in recent years have added to the strength of our system. Delivering food and agricultural products a priority for the industry, the Government of Canada and provincial governments. This priority and our commitment to meeting our customers’ needs are not going to change.