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Manitobans most confident in country’s food supply

New report examines consumer views around food safety, supply issues.


March 18, 2021
By The Canadian Press

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Food industry insiders remember it like it was yesterday: Canada had only just gotten its first COVID-19 cases, but people were beginning to panic.

Fairly quickly, questions began to accumulate about whether you could catch the virus from the food you purchased. Yet, even before early lockdowns came into effect, hoarding had already started at grocery stores – from dry pasta and legumes to canned items or baking supplies; and, of course, toilet paper.

A year into the pandemic, Canadians now have more faith in the overall food industry than they have in each other about personal consumption or stockpiling habits, suggests a new report from the Agri-Food Analytics Lab released Wednesday.

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And trends in the study, which surveyed over 10,000 people from coast to coast, show that Manitoba leads other provinces in confidence rates about major aspects like food safety and supply chains.

“It’s fair to say, we’ve all definitely come a long way from the novelty and uncertainty of the situation that we saw last spring,” said Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of the report and supply management professor at Dalhousie University, in an interview.

“These numbers are a big vote of confidence for everyone in the industry because it wasn’t the easiest thing to get to this point,” he said. “Certainly, grocers and suppliers and, really, everyone who works in the sector made sure people not only had their food but also that they knew it was safe.”

As a unit of measurement, the study looked at confidence rates to measure consumers’ feelings about current and future economic conditions affecting food systems. They also looked at satisfaction rates because it would indicate the fulfillment that consumers derive from interacting with the food industry, one way or another.

Charlebois believes the results of the report indicate that the impact of COVID-19 over food safety has almost completely become negligible.

A total of 72.2 per cent of Canadians have confidence in the food safety of their products, despite the pandemic. And 74.9 per cent respondents said they generally feel products in Canada are safe, regardless of the pandemic being factored in.

The highest food safety confidence rate in the country is in New Brunswick with 79.9 per cent, followed closely by Manitoba at 76.9 per cent. The lowest rate is in Newfoundland and Labrador at 70.6 per cent.

“The supply chain aspects are also particularly great to see,” said Charlebois. “Canadians are definitely showing that they believe the industry has done a great job handling all of this, despite the many disruptions and backlogs.”

A total of 79.6 per cent of Canadians believe the people who work in the industry care about providing food during the pandemic, and only 17.4 per cent of respondents said the supply chain will not be able to provide enough food for everyone.

That confidence rate varies from region to region, however. The most confident province in terms of food supply chains is Manitoba (at 87.9 per cent), followed by Quebec (at 87 per cent) and British Columbia as the least confident (at 78 per cent).

“I think the least expected results of the study we found are seen in that confidence paradox about stockpiling or hoarding sentiments,” said Charlebois. “It would appear that Canadians are still quite apprehensive and don’t necessarily trust each other as much as they trust the food system itself.”

When asked if they believe people will not stockpile food due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only 38.4 per cent respondents agreed nationally. In Manitoba, that’s 36.7 per cent, which is among the lowest of concerned provinces, with the most concerned region being Prince Edward Island, at 54.6 per cent.