Food Processing Sector Needs Support
April 17, 2020 | Paul Bootsma
I’ve often said it’s not the problem that is the problem, but how we respond to the problem that becomes the problem. Now that Ontario is one month into the COVID-19 state of emergency, it is high time we make adjustments to deal with the day-to-day and long-term changes that are caused by this situation.
Of course, we must continue to abide by the recommendations of our governments and those in the health system who are managing the crisis. We need cooperation not dissension. Right now, we are seeing the importance of cooperation between government and all of us working in food and agriculture.
Earlier this week, CFFO sent a letter to Minister Hardeman asking him to work with the processing industry to allow flexibility of regulations and creative solutions where possible.
Because of the closures of restaurants and other venues, and due to people being home more, food processors are seeing a big change in demand. They need to change processing to be able to package raw product into what is needed, but in many ways they are hindered.
Dumping of milk, as we have seen recently, should not be necessary. Greater effort should be made to prevent food waste during this crisis; food banks still need supplies and would be grateful for all they can procure.
The CFFO is also seeking other solutions facing the value chain, including the potential for re-opening some of the local abattoirs that have closed in the past few years to open up more capacity for beef and off-sort animals. We are also seeking some relaxation of municipal bylaws to allow more farm sales, particularly for the horticulture industry. We believe solutions that keep farms in business, while also maintaining the necessary public safety measures, are possible.
Over the past few years, we have often spoken about the food industry, which includes farmers, processors, transportation, and retail stores, working together for the best returns for all. Today, we recognize how valuable it would be if a well coordinated plan were in place. In times like these, it’s also important that every sector in the value chain, including producers, needs protection from being taken advantage of.
Looking ahead, as farmers and food industry, we have an opportunity to remind the consumers where food comes from and who begins the process of producing their daily food. This crisis could be the spark that sets off a much larger conversation of food sovereignty for Canada.
Paul Bootsma is Field Services Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.