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Coronavirus: Canadian beef industry stakeholders address COVID-19 crisis

Canadian beef industry stakeholders address COVID-19 crisis
WATCH ABOVE: Canada’s beef sector continues to assess the economic climate amidst the coronavirus pandemic and there’s now a push to ensure adequate labour on the meat processing side. Tom Roulston reports.

Canadian beef industry stakeholders held a telephone town hall Friday to share how the industry is trying to weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), said industry-wide efforts are underway in partnership with the federal government to ensure stable beef production and trade throughout the crisis.

READ MORE: Canada, U.S. to temporarily close border to non-essential traffic over coronavirus

Denis Laycraft, CCA’s executive vice president told the teleconference that beef is in extraordinarily high demand right now and there are many processors working six days a week to keep up.

“I’m confident we’re as prepared as we can be at this stage of COVID-19,” Laycraft said.

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“I thank all sectors in the beef chain for their leadership in implementing good practices that will hopefully build the greatest amount of resiliency in our system,” Laycraft said.

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According to the CCA, there have been no trade interruptions for live cattle between Canada and the U.S. thus far, or issues with the beef supply chain.

CCA said efforts are ongoing to avoid interruptions within the system.

READ MORE: Coronavirus pandemic could see 15% of B.C. restaurants close for good, says industry

There is however some uncertainty when it comes to qualified labour on the processing side.

Currently, there is a proposal from industry stakeholders before the federal agriculture minister.

The proposal seeks to amend new border restrictions to allow an exemption for agri-food workers — who would otherwise qualify for Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

“Access to qualified foreign workers remains one of the most important issues impacting beef production in Canada,” Janice Tranberg, president and CEO of the National Cattle Feeders’ Association, said.

“Both in terms of sustaining current production levels as well as ensuring the continued availability of beef products to Canadian consumers during this time.”

If the exemption were to be granted, Tranberg said those workers would be subject to rigorous public health protocols.

There’s also a push from industry stakeholders to extend the work permits of temporary foreign workers already employed in the agri-food sector.

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