Sollio proposes five avenues of action to help agri-food sector
May 27, 2020, Montreal, Que. – Ghislain Gervais, president of Sollio Cooperative Group, recently shared his thoughts on limiting the short-term consequences and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the agri-food industry’s supply chain with a panel of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.
Sollio, which is Canada’s largest agricultural co-operative, has proposed five avenues for action to stimulate economic recovery and support the entire agri-food chain as it faces the current challenges generated by the pandemic.
The co-operative maintains that agricultural producers and food processors are experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in several ways. For Olymel alone, costs to date amount to more than $20 million, not counting lost market margins.
In early May, Sollio and five other agri-food organizations urged governments to set up a specific assistance program for the agri-food sector to ensure its viability and the food security of Canadians. The federal government had just announced support measures that the co-operative says were a step in the right direction, but clearly insufficient.
The co-operative is proposing five avenues for action. They are aimed at helping the entire agri-food chain face current challenges and position itself for the future on the markets:
- Increasing productivity, including through automating and robotizing infrastructures;
- Increasing food self-sufficiency, but also sustained support for exporters through investments in food processing.
- Developing the vitality of the regions is also an important aspect of the recovery, in particular by speeding up deployment of telecommunications infrastructures;
- Supporting a more sustainable economy, which involves significant support for the digitization and performance of agriculture, as well as promoting and supporting the co-operative business model, which has proven its worth and is in line with Canadian values, while enabling the development of large-scale enterprises;
- Promoting front-line trades, since labour shortages are still very much present even with the current unemployment.
Gervais reminded the committee that supply chains were put to the test even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic because of the CN strike, rail blockades and difficulties in accessing the Chinese market.
“Canadian government support must be well-targeted and sustained to protect our supply chains. Supporting us in our investments, in a context of scarce resources, means ensuring that Canada will be able to increase its food self-sufficiency, as well as better protect its capacity and its reputation as a world-class exporter.
Founded in 1922, Sollio is one of the largest agri-food enterprises in Quebec, the only pan-Canadian agricultural supply co-operative and 27th largest agri-food co-operative in the world. It represents more than 122,000 members, agricultural producers and consumers in 50 traditional agricultural and consumer co-operatives across several Canadian provinces.