OFA: Food security in Ontario remains strong

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / Serg64)

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is urging consumers not to panic buy and is reassuring Ontarians that safe food will continue to be produced, processed, and distributed despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The OFA said Tuesday afternoon that the local food supply system is safe and strong.

“Despite consumer concerns with availability, Canadian and Ontario products continue to be produced, processed and distributed through our food distribution networks across the province,” said OFA President Keith Currie. “However, to help ease immediate short-term supply pressures, OFA is urging consumers to practice normal grocery buying habits with the assurance that fresh and processed products will continue to be made available.”

The OFA is echoing reassurances by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Ministers Ernie Hardeman and Christine Elliott that public health protection measures and business continuity support continue to be in place. The OFA said the food supply system in Ontario, and across Canada, is well equipped – even in times of crisis – to continue providing healthy, safe, and affordable food.

OFA officials added Ontario’s food distribution system will continue stocking grocery store shelves and the food supply chain can handle the additional pressures put on it as a result of the current health crisis.

“Our food system has never been stronger, and we want to assure all Ontarians that they will not run out of fresh, affordable food during these challenging times,” Currie added. “Consumers are understandably anxious about the uncertainty we are all facing, but one thing we want to do is quell their fears about food running out. There is no reason to hoard food. There is enough to feed us all.”

The OFA said there are 49,600 farms across the province growing more than 200 different farm and food products, and many of those commodities are further enhanced by the thriving and innovative food processing sector in Ontario.

“Everyone in Ontario is facing an unprecedented situation where we are seeing the effects of a global pandemic in our own homes and communities,” the OFA president said. “During this time of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to look out for our families, friends and neighbours.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “That is what Canadians do in difficult times. We pull together and we look after each other.”

Chatham-Kent Leamington Member of Parliament Dave Epp is urging the federal government to take the urgent action needed to maintain temporary foreign workers to help ensure Canada’s food security. On Tuesday, Epp sent a letter to the prime minister and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion to remind them how critical food security is to the country’s citizens and economy especially in times of “crisis” such as a pandemic.

Epp said Canada must not “cripple” the greenhouse, horticulture and processing industries by restricting essential temporary foreign workers. He said those workers are returning to Canada soon and need certainty.

Epp is asking that Canada acts with great care and deliberation.

“We must reduce Canadian vulnerability to foreign supplies and keep local jobs and economic activity as an essential service,” Epp wrote.

The MP said the greenhouse sector is very closely connected to the U.S. economy. Epp added the industry is already exploring a protocol of controlled travel and isolation to keep Canadians and the food supply safe.