Friday, May 22, 2020
CNN has a big story tonight about the future of the US food supply - with more questions than answers:
Canada is going to be having similar problems, because nobody knows what is going to happen.“We don’t know what the food-service sector will look like,” said Jaime Chamberlain, a fresh-produce importer based in Nogales, Arizona. When the pandemic largely shut down the US in mid-March, “I lost about 96 percent of my food-service contracts from one day to the next. That is an incredible hit to my business.”
Now, Chamberlain asks, “Are people going to go back to cruise lines? Will they go to a restaurant that seats 100 people? Will that restaurant be able to operate with the same amount of seating? Maybe there’ll be no more conventions for 1,000 people… I think people are going to be very reluctant.”
Burkett, speaking by phone from his Mississippi farm, shares those and other worries, and not just on his own account.“As a farmer, the dilemma I’ve got right now, is we don’t have a market. I’ve got crops going to be there to harvest, and I don’t know if we’ll have someone to sell to or not.” In a few weeks, Burkett said he will have more than 120,000 ears of sweet corn to harvest — all meant to go to restaurants that may or may not need them. “My biggest fear is the fear of how long this is going to last. I have to decide now what I’m going to plant in the fall. I’ve got to order seeds, get the ground ready,” Burkett said. He’s decided, for example, to go ahead and plant seedless watermelons, so they’ll be ready to sell this fall to the New Orleans school system — and he’ll have to hope the schools are open.
COVID19 has upended the world, and given Trump's mismanagement in America, which will bleed over into Canada too, we are going to be on our own for a long time, I think.
For us here in the west, the main issue I think is going to be food -- growing it, and importing it. The food production and distribution and processing chains are in shambles and its going to get worse.
Yes, we are planting a garden this spring after years of not bothering. And yes, we have arranged for weekly vegetable deliveries from the local market garden. And yes, I am hoarding jars so I can freeze and can vegetables and fruit for the first time in a long time. And yes, we know a guy who knows a guy who can get us a side of beef the next time they are culling their herd.
But its not going to be enough.
Especially if the meat plants keep on having to close down because the virus is running rampant through their facilities. Wait till it gets into the fish plants, and into the fruit and vegetable processing lines.
Has anybody yet figured out the safest ways to seed, fertilize, harvest, and process our Canadian crops this summer? Will we also have to figure out how to get our Saskatchewan grain to flour mills in Ontario, and move BC apples to the food processors in Quebec, instead of following the usual north-south shipping lanes, selling our food south while eating food imported from the US?
And hey, funny thing, hoocouldanoode? - but maybe it would have been a good thing to keep the Canadian Wheat Board around for just such an emergency, because the Canadian government could tell them what to do and they sorta had to do it - unlike the grain companies who will happily make a pile of money shipping all our grain production to China or wherever even if Canadians need the bread.
Our remaining other marketing boards might well turn out to be useful for the next few years, too - we will need the eggs, and the milk.
Basically, in the long term, I think Canada will have to get more self-sufficient, both in terms of what we produce, and how we sell it. It won't be as "efficient" as the globalized food production and distribution system our food producers have spent the last 50 years developing. But at least in a Canada-focused national system, Canadians would be the first in line.
But its going to be a painful time while we sort it out.
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