Supply chain disruptions were a problem in the produce sector before the pandemic
Fertilizer is another sector facing supply chain woes. Ottawa—The supply chain issues afflicting the agrifood sector existed before the pandemic, which has only made them worse, says Ron Lemaire President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA). There should be […]
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Fertilizer is another sector facing supply chain woes.
Ottawa—The supply chain issues afflicting the agrifood sector existed before the pandemic, which has only made them worse, says Ron Lemaire President of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA).
There should be a supply chain commissioner who is mandated and empowered to bring the necessary parties together to find a solution to problems in various sectors, he told the Commons agriculture committee.
“Our members are facing death by a thousand cuts as a result of the layering of disruptions,” he said. The supply chain issues mean “not only lost sales but also product spoilage and food waste.
“There is no doubt that the ongoing supply chain disruptions are complex and interconnected, and so too are the solutions. They require action across multiple federal ministries and departments as well as collaboration with provincial, territorial and local governments.”
Both short-term and long-term plans are needed for creating “a mechanism to prioritize the movement of perishable and essential goods in the event of disruptions, as we’ve experienced over the last two years.”
CPMA Chair Guy Milette said another challenge for produce sector is higher freight costs and container shortages. “Over the past two years, freight truck shipping costs have also increased 50 to 80 per cent, both cross‑border and domestically.”
His own Montreal-based company Courchesne Larose has seen a minimum increase of $250,000 per week in freight costs. Its just‑in‑time delivery program “is under tremendous strain due to the logistics issues, labour and delays. This is why consumers are seeing disruptions in product availability. “Also, maritime ports are seeing significant unloading and loading delays, creating challenges to our integrated supply chain.”
Katie Ward, President of the National Farmers Union, told the MPs that “the acute supply chain issues that we face now have roots going back decades. Canada has set ambitious goals to increase agricultural exports, and our reliance on imports has increased.
“Multinational companies pursue global sourcing and just-in-time delivery to minimize their costs,” she said. “Our food and agriculture system has now become dependent on long, complicated supply chains with weak links creating vulnerabilities.”
Fewer and larger companies control inputs, processing, transportation, financing and distribution, which enables them “to set prices to maximize their own profits at the expense of individual farmers, workers, small businesses and consumers.”
A classic example is fertilizer, which the NFU has asked the committee to investigate. “Companies charging exorbitant prices blame supply chain issues, and yet these same companies are making huge windfall profits,” she said.
“Going forward, agriculture policy should be designed to build in safety valves and surge capacity so that disruptions are manageable challenges instead of full-scale crises.” The solution would rebalancing power, bring greater fairness and equity into our food system, and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions while implementing adaptation measures.
“The federal government can do this by providing the program, policy and regulatory support needed to develop and sustain our domestic market, creating broader and more diverse supply networks while retaining more of our high-value food dollars within Canada.”