Canadian farmers are getting through the pandemic relatively unscathed as the vast majority are operating at full speed and in a strong position to pay back loans.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 88 per cent of agricultural businesses are fully open and 55 per cent are making normal sales, compared to around 70 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, for the economy as a whole.
At the same time, Farm Credit Canada, a major crown lender, says almost all the farmers and agri-food businesses that deferred payments on their loans because of COVID-19 have started making loan payments when the deferral ended.
In early October, there were 4,500 customers that had used deferrals and that has since dropped to 3,300. Of businesses for which loan deferrals have ended, 98 per cent have resumed regularly scheduled payments, the Financial Post reported.
While some observers feared Ontario would lose up to 15 per cent of farms by the end of 2020, others have rolled their eyes, noting that as land and business owners, farmers are not doomsayers.
“The people that make up the industry seem to be inherently optimistic,” said André Fagnou, FCC director of pricing and products. “Otherwise, you probably wouldn’t see some of the resilience that you’re seeing.”
Agriculture, however, has not been without its worries. Many farms faced difficulty finding workers, including foreign workers. Food sector shutdowns, disrupting farm sales and the shut down of meat processing plants forced livestock producers to find other markets.
In a May survey, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 48 per cent of farmers were worried about debt.