We are experiencing unprecedented times. The Covid-19 (corona virus) global pandemic has created fear and panic for personal health concerns, but also for the health of our farm, food, and drink sector.

How is your business fairing through all of this?

You may be juggling personal perspectives and decisions for yourself and family, your employees, and your customers. It’s important to have pertinent and accurate information.

This will likely be a series of posts, as we discover daily changes to our lives and business. We are watching the situation closely and will facilitate information sharing as best we can. You can learn from other businesses and organization, but, please also share your learnings to support other food industry folk.

This is such an instant interruption, but be assured, it will not last forever.

Current COVID-19 Situation

The news we are exposed to changes by the hour. Use different sources to get accurate details. You can find specific disease-related information at these two federal and provincial websites. Everything from definitions, symptoms, prevention, travel, etc.

World Health Organization

Government of Canada

BC Government – HealthLink BC

BC Government News

BC Centre for Disease Control

BC Chamber of Commerce – QUICK SURVEY

The BC Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Small Business BC, Community Futures, and British Columbia Economic Development Association, is urgently seeking your input around current and contemplated impacts to businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please take this quick 4-minute survey, today.

Business Discussions

The farm, food, and drink sector will experience many challenges through this situation, but let’s keep a focus on the fact that people have to be fed. And, with global supply chains at risk, it is even more important to promote local food by local farmers and producers.

The following list shows areas for discussion or further investigation, as the subjects change daily:

  • How will farmers markets be affected because of group gathering restrictions? (see BCAFM link below)
  • Sobeys recently announced a halt to in-store food demos, affecting brand and product awareness for demonstrating businesses.
  • Now may be the time to position your farm market or local food products as the healthy choice and one that supports local food security and in times like this may be most critical. 
  • For those who deal with animals, will that cause issues and concerns for consumers?
  • National and international players are struggling with export in certain areas. Will they put a focus on local markets creating a more competitive challenge for local players?
  • Will consumers look more closely at food handling and how their food comes to them? How do we communicate that?
  • Can we aggressively promote that we follow food safety standards? Domestic and BC food products are the way to go.
  • What are other countries doing with their local food sector and communities?
  • Do consumers perceive that larger suppliers have a safer food supply?

What else would you add to this list?

What are you experiencing or hearing around the food community? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Business Opportunities

Often when there is a crisis situation, beyond experiencing the current pain of it all, there is usually great opportunity that can present itself. But, look after the basics first.

During a recent Export Development of Canada webinar, the key message from EDC’s vice-president and chief economist, Peter Hall, was that this is a temporary situation. We will likely not head into a recession, and the USD/CDN exchange rate should continue to hover between 70 and 75 cents. He emphasized that we should rebound starting half way through the year, and the ensuing economic upswing will start to happen in the second half of the year and into 2021.

Key takeaways from the presentation included:

Finances

  • If you are experiencing a significant revenue drop, consider speaking to your bank or other lenders like BDC or Community Futures. Using one resource or a combination of their offerings could help you bridge your finances for the interim.
  • Talk to your suppliers to negotiate payment adjustments, and talk to your customers and your network to discuss your whole situation.

Risk Management

  • If you have a risk management strategy, now is the time to be proactive not reactive. If you don’t have a plan, now is the best time to start one.
  • Construct or adjust your plan to include Risk Avoidance, Risk Sharing, Risk Reduction, and Risk Transfer.

Operations

  • Re-evaluate your existing suppliers and networks. You may need to pivot to new suppliers which may impact your operations and financials.
  • Create contingency plans and review contracts

Silver Lining

  • If your business has slowed down, take this opportunity to prepare for the rebound when you could see an influx of orders that you want to be able to fulfill.
  • Expand your network and create new relationships. This can position you for longer term success versus just being reactionary to the current situation.
Man holding cell phone with canola field in background

BC Food Sector Resources

Small Business BC

Download the SBBC Continuity Plan Checklist – emergency planning, employee protection, operations continuity.

BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM)

BC Food Processors Association (BCFPA)

Farm Folk City Folk

BC Distilled

Final Thoughts

A crisis is not a reason to back off. It may actually be an opportunity to expand when we do rebound. Continue marketing and communications initiatives, “We’re here, and we’re here with local food.”

If you’re struggling with any of this, we’d like to facilitate a connection to a Provincial Minister or business expert to help you get clarification for your particular issue. Contact us and let us know what you need.  

Please share your insights and questions in the comments below. If there something you want to know, let us know, and we’ll try to find the answer for you.

In the meantime, keep yourself and your family safe and healthy, and make plans for keeping your business healthy, too.

Stay well,

Your Farm Food Drink Inc. Team