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COVID-19 Updates News Associations
OFA survey: Lost revenue, labour delays and slow internet are top concerns for producers amid COVID-19

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture survey among members shows that 78 per cent of members anticipate lost revenue due to COVID-19.


March 27, 2020
By Ontario Federation of Agriculture

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A survey among 350 members conducted by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) reveal that 74 per cent of Ontario producers surveyed anticipate a change in their operations due to COVID-19, with 78 per cent expecting lost revenue as a result of value chain disruptions.

Last week OFA conducted a survey among members to find out how they expect this pandemic will impact their farm businesses. Peggy Brekveld, OFA vice president, encouraged producers to continue reaching out and summed up the results.

“Thanks to the more than 350 survey participants who shared their concerns and farm business situations. We will continue to evaluate the responses and share them with industry and government, as decisions impacting our farm businesses are made throughout this pandemic situation. OFA will use this survey as a benchmark with a plan to launch a second survey in coming weeks,” Brekveld wrote in the survey update.

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Survey results

Already, 74 per cent of members surveyed online indicated they are anticipating change in their operations due to COVID-19, the OFA update starts.

Farmers are known for their resilience and perseverance. But even before COVID-19 hit, farmers were coping with a tough year, with multiple rail disruptions, a shortage of meat processing capacity and uncertain global trade and market access.

OFA members are now bracing themselves for continued uncertainty – 78 per cent expect lost revenue as a result of value chain disruptions, 73 per cent are anxious about their inability to conduct business as usual and 69 per cent expect reduced cash flow.

“It is difficult to invest in your business today to ensure you have a good harvest in the fall when you are lacking cash flow/sales now, and potentially weakened demand in the fall,” stated a survey participant.

When asked about their top concerns on how COVID-19 will impact their farm businesses, financial impact, decrease in consumer spending and a potential global recession were the top three. At 53 per cent, cash flow was listed as the most immediate financial need to maintain farm business operations, followed by 37 per cent who expect they will need a temporary pause or rescheduling of loan repayments and 25 per cent who will be seeking information on crisis budget planning.

When asked about their top concerns on how COVID-19 will impact their farm businesses, financial impact, decrease in consumer spending and a potential global recession were the top three.

Labour issues have already impacted some Ontario farmers with disruptions to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program. OFA’s survey revealed that 52 per cent of respondents that use the program said that potential delays or cancellations to the program would negatively impact their operations.

One member wrote, “If we do not have access to the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), our farm will have a very difficult time surviving this emergency. The whole Canadian agricultural industry, especially horticulture, will have extreme difficulty.”

Business interruptions are already being felt on Ontario farms, as many members who responded to the survey noted inputs and on-farm services, like feed and agronomy consultations are being disrupted.

One farmer commented, “We are concerned when field work begins, will we be able to access seed, fertilizer, fuel and equipment dealerships in case of machinery repairs?”

Farmers are also experiencing problems getting their products to market, with one third of survey participants reporting an interruption in delivering finished products. More than half expect these disruptions to continue, with many farmers unsure about what the future holds.

These challenges are compounded with poor quality internet and telecommunications in rural Ontario.

These challenges are compounded with poor quality internet and telecommunications in rural Ontario. More than three-quarters of farmers responding said they cannot operate business as usual during COVID-19 due to poor rural internet and telecommunications quality. Survey respondents also noted the high cost of rural internet, including overage charges or lack of internet providers, that restricts their ability to work and conduct business.