COVID-19 won’t disrupt fertilizer availability

Garth Whyte exhaled a sigh of relief when he read Agriculture Canada’s statement about the transportation of agricultural commodities.

“The continued movement of agri-food products and inputs, both home and abroad, and the ongoing delivery of essential food-delivery services, are essential to Canada’s plan to manage COVID-19,” federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a recent statement.

That is the exact assurance the president of Fertilizer Canada had been waiting for.

He was worried that travel restrictions surrounding COVID-19 were going to disrupt the flow of fertilizer products at a most inopportune time.

Canada and the United States recently agreed to restrict “non-essential travel” across the border. The association was worried fertilizer movement would be deemed non-essential.

“Our industry would be concerned about any restrictive measures that may have unintended consequences on rail, port and truck service, imports or operations at agri-retail,” Fertilizer Canada said in a press release issued a day before Bibeau’s statement.

“Governments must ensure that the Canadian border remains open to the movement of fertilizer in order for farmers to receive their product and meet their spring seeding requirements.”

Those concerns have been allayed by the statement out of Bibeau’s office that the continued movement of agri-food products and inputs are considered essential.

“That’s really good news,” said Whyte.

This is the peak season for fertilizer movement as retailers are getting products in place for the upcoming spring planting season.

Canada ships nitrogen and potash fertilizer south to the U.S., while the U.S. sends phosphate north.

Whyte estimates that 75 percent of fertilizer products are already in place and ready to be distributed to farmers. It was the other 25 percent the organization was worried about.

But with the federal government announcement that crop inputs are considered essential commodities under its COVID-19 plan he does not anticipate any fertilizer product shortages in Canada.

“It looks like we’re ready. We’re well positioned,” said Whyte.

“As sectors go, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Bibeau has formed a COVID-19 “intersectoral working group” that is meeting three times a week via conference call and is also in regular contact with her provincial and territorial counterparts.

“I want to reassure Canadians that we have a high-performing and resilient food system,” she said in her statement.

“Our priority is keeping Canadians healthy and that includes keeping food accessible for all.”

Contact sean.pratt@producer.com

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