OTTAWA, Ont. — The Conference Board of Canada has released a report analyzing the economic forces shaping Canada’s food supply chains. “Fast and Fresh: A Recipe for Canada’s Food Supply Chains” also provides recommendations for improving the food supply chain, which include:
• Developing supply chain efficiency metrics to evaluate ongoing changes in supply chain and transportation options;
• Re-evaluating the potential for rail transportation of fresh and frozen food products;
• Assessing the impact of domestic and foreign hinterland infrastructure improvements;
• Increasing collaboration between importers and exporters; and
• Educating consumers on the benefits of improvements to food supply chains.
“Food has all of the worst characteristics of something that needs to be shipped. That is the challenge that buyers and sellers of food face on a daily basis. Canada’s food supply chains are at the base of many food issues. The nature of these chains has an impact on Canadian companies’ competitiveness, the kinds of foods that Canadians eat, the prices they pay, and even the environmental footprint of Canada’s food economy,” said the Conference Board of Canada in the release.
While Canada’s supply chain infrastructure and expertise is mature, there are some evolving trends and ongoing incremental changes can still have large impacts for food producers and retailers. For example, many intermodal containers that enter Canada are shipped back out of the country empty. Collaborative efforts between shippers and carriers that help to efficiently reposition empty containers within Canada in order to ship them back out full can help to reduce logistics costs. Government policies that help to relieve logistics bottlenecks, either through more efficient border processes or investments in infrastructure, can have disproportionate effects on the competiveness of fresh foods in particular. In some cases, where transit time is reduced by just a few hours, a product can suddenly be exposed to new markets around the world.
The report also concludes that supply chain efficiency metrics need to be developed in order to evaluate ongoing changes in supply chain and transportation options. This can help develop opportunities and manage threats as they happen. Policy-makers can and should use parallel metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of public investments and public policies.
Both domestic and foreign hinterland infrastructure improvements can have major impacts on the cost and viability of moving food products from one place to another, so shippers and policy-makers should be aware of and understand changes on the other end of their logistics chains as well.
Businesses can educate consumers on the environmental impacts of food products using a supply chain approach in order to widen the current narrow focus on the transportation impacts. The full report is available at: