OFA: farmers need support on global market losses

By Keith Currie, President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

OPINION – Frustration among Canadian farmers because of political meddling in our markets is reaching an all-time high. Global trade disputes are putting farmers at a disadvantage and the loss of global markets for our export products is entirely out of our control. These market disruptions, caused by political leaders, are causing depressed returns for Canadian agricultural products.

Already, canola, beef, pork and soybean farmers have lost significant markets in China that can’t be replaced. The loss of such a major global market has left Canadian export farmers scrambling to find alternative buyers for their products. But global trade partnerships take time to negotiate, cultivate trade relationships and prove product quality. And China isn’t the only country closing their doors to Canadian agricultural products – economic sanctions imposed by Saudi Arabia last summer saw Ontario beef exports drop. The 2017 Ontario beef export market to Saudi Arabia was business valued at $26.5 million.

Ontario soybean growers are getting nervous as their largest and most critical export season approaches. More than 95 per cent of soybean exports occur between October and January and the 2018-2019 marketing year saw 1.4 million tonnes of Ontario soybeans exported to China – the largest volume on record. Currently, Ontario soybeans are being shut out of China due to increased inspections and wait times at ports, forcing farmers and exporting companies to look to other markets. Additional global trade disruptions between the US and China are making it difficult to find new markets, causing an influx of US soybeans into the EU that are displacing Ontario soybean exports to EU.

Adding to the frustration farmers are feeling right now, is the Canadian government’s approach to supporting farmers through all this uncertainty. A recent federal funding announcement saw financial support for only one agricultural sector – dairy. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) represents all types of farms in Ontario, and we thank the Canadian government for recognizing the market losses and supporting our dairy farmers, but what about the rest of our farming members that are facing the impacts from key international market closures that are out of their control?

OFA, together with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), are working with commodity groups to raise our concerns about the implications of global market losses, the looming financial crisis and the unfair support for one agricultural sector over others. We’re continuing to meet with federal and provincial governments to address this issue and identify new solutions to assist farmers facing this unfair situation. OFA understands that without a resolution with China, and other key global markets, Ontario and Canadian farmers could face a severe market crisis with decreased pricing and lost market opportunities. We are working on behalf of all our members to ensure fair solutions and necessary support is extended to all farmers.