COVID-19 is wreaking havoc across all elements of society, none more so than the business community. Virtually all businesses have been affected by fall-out from the pandemic. Many are facing severe financial consequences (restaurants, movie theatres, bars, malls, retail stores, recreational facilities, health clubs, etc.), while others are likely doing better than before the crisis (think of the companies that produce hand sanitizer, medical masks and supplies, and distribution companies like Amazon). When society ‘normalizes’ it is unclear how many of these businesses will emerge weaker, stronger or not at all. In fact, the term normalize is likely subjective in and of itself. No one really knows what the post COVID-19 normal will look like.
Agriculture is unique as an industry where time is of the absolute essence. By its very nature, agriculture cannot stop, furlough or even pause in place. Each spring farmers dust off the planters, seeders, sprayers and other gear to get their crops in the ground. Nothing has stopped this annual rite of spring – not the Great Depression, world wars, previous pandemics or economic collapses. So while planting/seeding will no doubt happen this spring, the long-term fallout and effects of COVID-19 on the agricultural sector are largely unknown.
I recently polled a group of highly respected and experienced agricultural professionals for their thoughts on two topics – one thing that will permanently change for Canada’s agri-food sector post COVID-19 and one thing that will not change.
My virtual panel included Darren Dillenbeck, FMC Canada country manager; Dr. Owen Roberts, director of research communications at the University of Guelph; John Jamieson, president and CEO of the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity; Senator Robert Black; Warren Libby, past president of Syngenta Canada; Ferdie Schneidersmann, retired agricultural executive; Doug Foley, director of digital strategy at Giant Goat; Crystal Mackay of Loft32; Kim McConnell, former AdFarm CEO and Member of the Order of Canada; and Jay Bradshaw, former president of Syngenta Canada and current GP Principal at Ag Capital Canada.
I have randomized the panel’s responses to preserve anonymity, and also on the off chance that not all of these sterling predictions come true! Otherwise responses are unedited.
What’s one thing you think will permanently change for Canada’s agri-food sector post COVID-19?
What’s one thing you think will not change post COVID-19?
We will certainly check back in a year and see how our prognosticators did. For now – stay safe and be well. And please be aware that slower moving farm vehicles will be on the roads in the coming weeks – as spring activities kick into gear in the countryside.
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