More Access for Local Markets

May 8, 2020 | Suzanne Armstrong

More Access for Local Markets

It is not news these days that COVID-19 has dramatically shifted consumer behaviour, especially as concerns food.

Before this dramatic shift, around 30% of household food spending was on meals out of the house. While the new numbers are not currently available, it is clear that there is increasing demand and pressure on grocery stores as the main conduit between producers, processors and customers. But grocery stores don’t need to be the only way to get food to customers.

With this consumer interest and increased demand, the CFFO has written to government to encourage more opportunities for farmers and small processors to connect directly with customers. We have asked government to support reopening farmers’ markets. We’ve also asked government  to make sure their recently announced support for online sales is available quickly and to the greatest number of qualifying businesses as possible. The more points of sale available, the more resilient our local food security will be. This will reduce pressure on grocery stores as the main outlet for getting food to people.

The CFFO has also written to the provincial government to encourage them to offer more support and to reduce red tape for provincially inspected abattoirs and meat processors. These are small to medium businesses focused only on selling within the province, usually for local clientele.

Burdensome regulations in the past resulted in many small processing plants closing down or new businesses unable to get going. Some recent processing plant closures in late 2019 had already reduced Ontario’s meat processing capacity before COVID-19 became an issue. Now, with large plant closures in both Canada and the US, the significant risks of closure, especially of larger federally inspected plants, even for a few days, are evident. This causes huge problems for livestock producers and can also cause problems for meat supply to consumers as well.

It is clear that Ontario needs more processing capacity. Small abattoirs are able to provide processing for a wider variety of animals and culinary tastes. They can provide processing in more remote areas, and ensure that as a whole, Ontario has more processing capacity, and that our processing eggs, so to speak, are not all in one basket.

Suzanne Armstrong is Director of Policy & Research 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.