Farmscape for March 25, 2020
|Full Interview 14:29||Listen|
Agri-Food Economic Systems suggests greater cooperation, coordination and flexibility will be needed among governments and industry to minimise disruptions within agriculture due to COVID-19. An Agri-Food Economic Systems Independent Agri-Food Policy Note examines the evolving roles of government and industry in addressing the challenges caused by COVID-19. Dr. Al Mussell, the Research Lead with Agri-Food Economic Systems, says emergency planning has focussed on border closures, animal diseases and in some cases plant diseases but absenteeism in due to a pandemic has not been a focus.
Clip-Dr. Al Mussell-Agri-Food Economic Systems:
We’re coming from a good place. We’ve got an ag and food supply chain that works very smoothly.
There’s not a lot of bugs that are left in it. They’ve all been worked out and we’re starting from a good spot but now we’re confronting challenges that we’ve never seen before so we really need to work together and industry is gong to have to engage with government to figure out if it’s regulatory issues that need to be changed or temporarily waved or adjusted in some way. Those are things that we’re going to need to be able to do. The absenteeism problem, we’ve tried to come at it with some initial ideas and there’s much more thinking to do I’m sure. But one way to address absenteeism, thinking about the processing plants for example and elsewhere in agribusiness, maybe there’s an opportunity to cross-train employees. Where as somebody’s been employed on just one job in a packing plant, maybe we can train them to do two or three jobs so that, if some people fall ill, that person could fill in and do somebody else’s job who wasn’t able to come to work and we could manage to keep things going. Maybe the line would have to slow down a little bit. Hopefully not, but you could manage to keep things going in one fashion or other and, for certain specific kinds of jobs, you might be able to do it across farms.
Dr. Mussell says we haven’t faced these types of challenges since World War 2, and for most of us that’s before our time.
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*Farmscape is a presentation of Wonderworks Canada Inc