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Robustness of Canada’s Food Supply Chain

A cart with produce from Canada in boxes sits in front of produce shelves

Over the last few weeks we have seen panic buying across Canada due to Covid-19 and that has created temporary shortages across our grocery store network.

Reports suggest that 25% of households have enough food to last 3-4 days, so it likely that the majority of people “panic” buying have been in that group. But the Canadian food supply chain is rather robust and has had a few weeks to adjust to this problem. Unlike natural disasters or recent rail blockages that disrupt logistics system, the virus is unlikely to have the same impact and generally speaking, the Canadian food supply chain can handle it.

Therefore long-term outages of products are unlikely. Canada is also a major producer of packaged food items, but the impacts of Covid-19 will be slightly lessened as that sector is moving more and more to the automation of food processing with less humans directly required in production, but still a large number of people required for logistics and distribution.

Canadians spend approximately $96 billion each year at grocery and other food stores, but we require a large volume of imports to fill the shelves. Approximately $35 billion worth of food and beverage products are imported and we receive over $25 billion of that from our largest supplier, the USA.

A closing of the USA/Canada border to trade would have a massive impact on food supplies in Canada, especially for produce (fruit and vegetable) items as they are not in season yet in Canada. Mexico is another major supplier to Canada, with almost $2 billion worth of fruit and vegetables, representing almost 25% all of fruit and vegetable imports to Canada, arriving from Mexico via trucks through the USA/Canada border.

Given those statistics, it is vitally important to the food security of Canada that the USA/ Canada border be opened to trade during this difficult time.