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Agri-food industry and government must work together to address pandemic challenges

Guelph, ON – The Covid-19 emergency creates new risks for agri-food supply chains in Canada  
Canada’s agri-food supply chains are highly robust and resilient, but this should not distract from new risks it must now face. An Independent Agri-Food Policy Note released today by Agri-Food Economic Systems identifies sobering new risks, and puts the situation in context.
The coronavirus pandemic and Covid-19 threat creates risks that can undermine operations at critical points of the agri-food supply chain due to absenteeism. It could also threaten the movement and security of segments of the workforce necessary in agri-food.  Whipsawing demand, from panic grocery shopping followed by reduced traffic in stores may occur.  
“The impacts of absenteeism at critical points in food supply chains are potentially profound, with disruptions quickly backing up to the farm and stockouts at grocery stores”, said Ted Bilyea, Agri-Food Economic Systems Associate and co-author of the policy note. 
 “Employers may need to create a trained pool of temporary workers, and redundancies in operations, that can be called upon to serve the surge in retail purchasing, and used to fill in if increasing numbers of employees stay home and self-isolate.” 
The policy note puts the nature of risks posed in context, and presents some options for industry and government to mitigate at this remarkable time.  
“We need to pool the talents and powers of governments, industry, processors, input suppliers, producers and exporters to assure that we find the mechanisms and pathways to maintain continuity and quality throughout the food chain”, said Douglas Hedley, Agri-Food Economic Systems Associate and co-author of the policy note.
“The immediate task for industry and government is to acknowledge that there are significant potential risks, and to be prepared to act on them” says report co-author Al Mussell, Agri-Food Economic Systems Research Lead.  “Our agri-food system’s resilience lies in our ability to recognize the risks posed by an emergency, and to expedite the changes needed to secure it”.
Source : AFES