Will there be meat shortages due to COVID-19?

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TORONTO –
Some of North America’s largest meat producers have been forced to close factories or cut production amid the spread of the new coronavirus, prompting industry leaders to warn against the “immediate and drastic” effects on Canada’s supply chain.

Beef processing capacity has been reduced at a number of establishments in Canada and the United States, including a temporary reduction at a Cargill meat factory in High River, Alberta, where dozens of employees have been tested positive for COVID-19.

“This unique facility represents just over a third of Canada’s total processing capacity, so the impact on the Canadian beef industry is expected to be immediate and dramatic,” Michelle McMullen, communications manager at Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). ca by mail Monday.

According to the ACC, other Canadian factories have reduced their operations to implement COVID-19 security measures to allow physical distance to their factories.

Several factories in the United States, including the main producer JBS USA, have also closed or reduced their production due to growing employee absences and growing concerns about the virus.

With North American beef production “very limited,” CCA President Bob Lowe is calling on the Canadian government to take action to support Canadian farmers and protect the country’s supply chain.

“The Canadian beef industry is facing an extraordinary period of uncertainty,” said Lowe in a statement sent by email to CTVNews.ca on Monday.

“The existing programs do not address the specific threats we face and are in fact very insufficient. These are difficult times for all Canadians; together we can work out solutions to ensure that affordable and healthy food continues to be readily available. “

THE CONCERNS OF THE SUPPLY CHAIN ​​ARE NOT LIMITED TO BEEF

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork processor, announced on Sunday that it intends to close a US plant indefinitely due to an outbreak of coronavirus among employees and warned that the country was “dangerously close to the edge” supplies for grocers.

“The closure of this plant, combined with a growing list of other protein crops that have closed in our industry, is dangerously pushing our country to the limit in terms of meat supply,” said Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan , in a press release published on Sunday on the company’s website.

“It is impossible to keep our groceries in stock if our factories are not operating.”

Similarly, an Olymel pork plant in Yamachiche, Quebec. was closed for two weeks after nine workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Production is expected to resume on Tuesday with new security measures in place.

Last week, Maple Leaf Foods suspended operations in its Brampton, Ontario. poultry after three employees tested positive for the virus.

Requests for comment from the Canadian Pork Council and Chicken Farmers of Canada were not immediately returned.

However, Turkey Producers of Canada say there has been no major disruption to the turkey supply chain in Canada, noting that farmers are taking extra precautions, including canceling non-essential farm visits and increasing sanitation measures to protect employees.

“In terms of demand, the sector is well placed to meet the needs of the market. We don’t see any imminent shortage, “said executive director Phil Boyd in an emailed Monday.

“The turkey supply chain remains intact, and TFC is working with our partners on both sides of the farm to ensure that the area operates as normally as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. “

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