Learning from those before us

So far, in Canada, the government has said commerce and trade must continue. Agriculture is part of that, but should federal and provincial leaders be more clear in their messaging when it comes to certain parts of business and industry?

Mining, energy production, agriculture and food, transportation, hardware, trades, some manufacturing and media are among the many businesses that need to keep rolling.

This includes retailers for more than farm equipment and services. Farms rely on a wide variety industrial supplies and distributors. Most companies in the resources business live and die based on a litany of providers. The supply chains are long and easily broken.

Keeping Canadians safe does require social distancing and isolation, but it also requires something else, the often not-so-common sense. Luckily, common sense is something Canadians are known for and hopefully this crisis will give us a chance to, once again, earn that reputation.

China is three months into its response to COVID-19 and agriculture remains a top concern for that nation.

Chinese analysts were suggesting in mid-February that spring planting might not take place on time. Threatened were the migration of seasonal workers by quarantines; fertilizer production and importation centered in the province of Hubei, the heart of the COVID-19’s outbreak; horticulture inputs, from plastic films to fungicide and field crop seed availability.

The Chinese government took the warning seriously. President Xi Jinping called on the national and regional governments, and all Chinese, to ensure the agricultural spring happened on time and that food processing was maintained.

That government provided farmer loans and ensured trucks carrying farm supplies got fast clearances at quarantine road blocks. It prioritized movement of farm, vegetable processing and slaughter-plant workers to areas where they are needed.

One third of Chinese people still live in rural areas and most of these are involved in agriculture or its support. In Canada, about 20 percent of people live in rural areas, but only about 1.5 percent rely on agriculture for their living.

Current government actions in Canada signal we might have learned something from China. But it might not hurt for our leaders to remind our urban neighbours, once more with feeling as Xi did, why certain parts of the economy must remain operating.

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