Food Shortages Highlight Need for More Canadian Agriculture on Global Markets

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The world needs more Canadian resources, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. Not only is there a global energy crisis, but food shortages are also running rampant, according to the World Bank’s latest food security report (1).

Record high food prices have “…triggered a global crisis that will drive millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition, while threatening to erase hard-won gains in development,” says the World Bank.

Events in Ukraine, supply chain disruptions and economic turmoil from the pandemic are all working against global food security. And while Canadians are seeing nearly double-digit increases in food costs (2), rising prices have a much greater impact on people in low and middle-income countries as they spend a larger share of their income on food, according to the report.

Global hunger levels remain staggeringly high, which have also worsened over the past few years.

According to the State of Food Security in the World 2022 (3), the number of people affected by hunger rose to 828 million in 2021, up by 46 million when compared to 2020 and 150 million higher versus 2019.

The World Bank expects food prices to stay at historically high levels through the end of 2024. It says the war in Ukraine has altered global patterns of trade, production and consumption of critical commodities, exacerbating global food security issues and inflation.

Commodities that have been the most affected include maize, wheat, edible oils and fertilizers.

That makes sense, as 80% of the world’s potash production is controlled by Canada (32%), Russia (20%), Belarus (18%) and China (10%) (4). If you didn’t know already, 95% of global potash production is used to produce fertilizer. Additionally, Ukraine, Russia and Canada are all also major exporters of wheat; the three countries were all top five exporters in 2020 (5), while Ukraine was also a top five exporter of maize that same year (6).

Over the next several months, fertilizer shortages pose a huge challenge for crop growers and may significantly impact food production.

In an attempt to fight supply shortages, the World Bank Group, International Monetary Fund, United Nations and World Trade Organization recently released a joint statement calling on the international community to address global food insecurity (7).

Will Canada – a natural resource behemoth, home to some of the most productive global farming regions – heed the call?

Canada is also home to one of the most sustainable natural resource sectors on Earth. If global food and energy supplies are to come from anywhere, it should be from responsible producers like Canada that are committed to minimizing environmental impacts associated with resource production.

The Government of Canada has made some recent announcements to help boost agri-food exports, which is a good start amid desperate times.

In early June, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, announced a $2.7 million investment to help small and medium-sized food processors to expand to international markets (8). Also, in May, the federal government announced a $4.4 million investment to increase access to Canada’s high-quality grain products globally (9).

These are all positive steps. However, more can and should be done.

The success of Canada’s agricultural sector – like many Canadian industries – depends heavily on our ability to export to the world. Helping Canadian farmers, processors and exporters grow and diversify their markets is of critical importance, which in turn can help provide food security to our allies and trade partners.

Canadian governments of all levels should identify how we can break down trade barriers and get more of our responsibly produced agricultural products to global markets as fast as possible.

The war in Ukraine is pushing global commodity markets to the brink, while hundreds of millions of people across the world are already affected by hunger. It’s time that Canada taps into its vast wealth of natural resources like never before, opening up our agricultural products even more so to a world in dire need.

Canadian agriculture is world-class - banner

Sources:

1 - World Bank - Food Security Update, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/agriculture/brief/food-security-update)

2 - Global News - More price hikes coming to Canadian grocery stores this fall, food suppliers say, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://globalnews.ca/news/8986158/canada-grocery-stores-price-hikes-fall/)

3 - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://www.fao.org/documents/card/en/c/cc0639en)

4 - Natural Resources Canada - Potash Facts, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/our-natural-resources/minerals-mining/minerals-metals-facts/potash-facts/20521)

5 - The Observatory of Economic Complexity - Wheat, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://oec.world/en/profile/hs/wheat)

6 - The Observatory of Economic Complexity - Corn, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://oec.world/en/profile/hs/corn)

7 - The World Bank - Joint Statement: The Heads of the World Bank Group, IMF, WFP, and WTO Call for Urgent Coordinated Action on Food Security, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/statement/2022/04/13/joint-statement-the-heads-of-the-world-bank-group-imf-wfp-and-wto-call-for-urgent-coordinated-action-on-food-security)

8 - Government of Canada - Government of Canada invests $4.4 million to increase access to Canada’s high-quality grain products globally, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://www.canada.ca/en/agriculture-agri-food/news/2022/05/government-of-canada-invests-44-million-to-increase-access-to-canadas-high-quality-grain-products-globally.html)

9 - Government of Canada, Date Accessed: July 17th, 2022, (https://www.canada.ca/en/agriculture-agri-food/news/2022/06/government-of-canada-invests-over-27-million-to-grow-agri-food-exports.html)

 

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