Ag industry a potential ‘bright spot,’ post-pandemic

Agriculture could lead economic rebuild, ATB official says

Alberta’s ag sector will be key in rebuilding the province’s economy once the pandemic is over, says the director of research for economics at ATB Financial.

“Overall, I think one of the bright spots in a really dark economic situation in the province is our agriculture and agri-food sector,” Rob Roach said. “It’s still producing. It’s still providing an essential service. It hasn’t closed down in the way a lot of businesses have.”

And as Alberta works to rebuild its economy after “one of the worst (recessions) we’ve seen in recent memory,” agriculture could play an important role in those efforts.

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“Unlike some other industries, the disruption in agriculture will be less severe,” said Roach. “The industry doesn’t have to restart. It doesn’t have to worry about whether there are still going to be buyers for our products. Agriculture will be spared some of those challenges.”

But there could be challenges, he added. Already, some countries are implementing protectionist policies that could limit or block trade.

“Anxiety is high and they may want to set inward-looking policies as a knee-jerk reaction,” said Roach. “The sector will have to work against that to some degree.”

However, the already-strong reputation of Canada’s agriculture industry may be enhanced.

“I think it’s a real chance for Alberta and the Canadian agricultural system to show the world that we are a high-quality reliable supplier of food to the world,” he said. “Alberta has been helping to feed the world for decades and decades, so this is a real opportunity for us to build on that post-pandemic.

“I think there’s a really bright future ahead.”

— Jennifer Blair reports for Alberta Farmer from Sylvan Lake.

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