GUELPH — The Russian invasion of Ukraine threatens to jeopardize the global food supply chain, a risk that could impact the 2022 crop season here at home, driving up prices in the short term and leading to widespread famine in at-risk regions by next year, Ontario farm and agribusiness groups have recently warned.
The Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Agri-Business Association jointly briefed provincial and federal government officials March 18 on this spring’s risks and challenges and the impact the Russia-Ukraine War could have on Ontario’s food supply.
Farmers in Ukraine and Russia produce about a quarter of the world’s calories, with key regions in North Africa and the Middle East dependent on their production. But this supply chain has been significantly jeopardized by the tragic geopolitical events unfolding in Ukraine. This is forecast to result in a spike in food prices between eight and 22 percent over the coming months, and many agriculture economists are predicting famine in several African countries within the next 18 months, according to the groups.
“The Grain Farmers of Ontario stand with the people of Ukraine and the efforts Canada and its partners are making to restore peace in the region. We hosted this event today to share with policymakers the role Ontario’s grain production can make to help address and alleviate the food supply concerns that are unfolding around the world. Farmers in Ontario take seriously their duty to produce food, and we wanted to raise the issues we face completing that task,” Grain Farmers of Ontario Board Chair Brendan Byrne said.
“The war in Ukraine is tragic, and OFA is united with our brethren Ukrainian farmers who have had their livelihoods ripped apart and lives put at risk. Ontario is Canada’s most productive region, and Ontario farmers are eager to do what is required to produce the food people rely on us to grow. But in light of these geopolitical matters, compounded by last year’s drought in Western Canada and South America, we can’t do it alone,” Ontario Federation of Agriculture President Peggy Brekveld said.
How policymakers, farmers and other stakeholders in the agriculture value chain respond to this crisis over the next few weeks is critical, according to the groups. That response will determine how much food will be available in Ontario, Canada and around the world.
They also say it’s vitally important that Ontario find ways to maximize its production of livestock feed and grain in the 2022 growing season, which will also require strategies to manage an expected fertilizer shortfall because of sanctions against Russia.
“The tragic consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are creating great concern and uncertainty heading into this year’s planting season. Suppliers are facing several potential obstacles that could prove to be very disruptive for farmers,” Ontario Agri-Business Association Executive Director Russel Hurst said. “Canada’s food system has already endured supply chain challenges due to the pandemic, and now we must prepare and adjust for global fertilizer supply shortages as well a potential CP Rail labour disruption, just weeks before planting. The situation is dire and needs immediate attention.”
The groups’ recent briefing follows several weeks of one-on-one meetings with provincial and federal representatives on the risks that price shocks and potential late supplies pose to the spring planting in Ontario. They also raised the CP Rail strike, although that work stoppage ended March 22 when the company and employees went into arbitration.