Canadian food not moving due to rail blockades means missed meals in other countries

It can be easy to think about Canadian grain, canola, soybeans, or meat as just commodities — a product bought and sold, traded, and shipped. And that’s true, of course, but those commodities are also eventual meals for Canadian customers, even if those customers live in places such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, or the Philippines.

That’s just one of the points Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), wants protesters and politicians to consider in the midst of the current rail blockades and trade rift with China.

Lewis recently met with Cong Peiwu, ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Canada, to talk about how Saskatchewan — and Canada — can be a reliable supplier of pork and other commodities to the mega-economy.

That said, there are still “technical issues” keeping Canadian canola out of China, and Lewis conveyed to the ambassador that whatever those issues may be, Saskatchewan wants to move on resolving them.

Even if China opened its market fully to all Canadian product today, there is still a major logistics issue to contend with. On that file, Lewis is urging the Canadian government to move to a full resolution of the rail blockades, as it’s not just commodities not moving to market — it’s food.

“This is disrupting a food chain…it’s food,” Lewis says. “it’s not (just) an inconvenience if you’re going hungry…We’d like protesters to realize that.”

The rail blockades and corresponding losses to productivity are hitting the agriculture industry hard, at a time when the full brunt of the federally-imposed carbon tax is hitting farmers’ bank accounts. Lewis says that APAS is working to convey to the government that eight to 12 per cent of net income is being clawed out of the agriculture industry in Saskatchewan just for the carbon tax. That’s money, he says, that can’t go towards adapting and changing how farmers farm — which is supposed to be the entire point of taxing carbon.

Listen below to hear the entire conversation with Todd Lewis, recorded February 24th at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s AGM at Ottawa: