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Strong, bilateral trade agreements key to protecting Canadian agriculture during COVID-19

The Research Lead with Agri-Food Economic Systems suggests that bilateral trade agreements and strong trade relations with food dependant countries will be key to maintaining the viability of Canadian agriculture as nations respond to COVID-19.

28 April 2020, at 11:27am

To cope with COVID-19 some traditional food exporting nations have responded by taking steps to curtail food exports. An Agri-Food Economic Systems Independent Agri-Food Policy Note looks at "The New Trade Economy of Food Security: Repositioning Canada."

Research Lead Dr Al Mussell says only a handful of nations have the capacity to export beyond what they need to feed their own people, which underlies the importance of Canada being able to maintain its export capacity during this crisis.

"Pork, beef, wheat, canola, a range of pulse crops and there are other products as well. These are things that we produce very efficiently, far beyond our own needs and we do it very sustainably," says Dr Mussell, speaking to Farmscape.

"Where are the key markets that we could look for that are going to be dependant on imports of some of those staples? Can we forge relationships with them that make us the anchor supplier. We avoid competition from other countries that like to undercut us on price and do all of this in a WTO compliant manner?

"Those are some of the questions that I think we need to pose.

"Frankly the evidence is compounding that this kind of action by bigger countries is going to chip away at Canada and we can't play that game.

"We have to find a way to change the channel on it and one way to do that is try to forge bilateral relationships of one sort or another for agri-food that can secure us a market and get out of this subsidy game and commodity agriculture."

Dr Mussell says, if Canada can maintain its export supply chains and supply those food dependant markets when others are backing away, that trust we earn could be valuable.