Despite the closure of a large U.S. pork plant due to workers testing positive for the novel coronavirus, as well as similar closures across North America, the general manager of Manitoba Pork says so far there’s no reason for concern about the pork supply in the province.
“At this moment in time, business is carrying on as usual, but of course we’ve taken a whole pile of steps — both on the farm and at the plants — to protect the workers from a potential COVID infection,” Andrew Dickson told 680 CJOB.
“So far, it’s working well and we’ve got good co-operation with all the workers and the unions.
“There’s ongoing dialogue every day going on assessing how to protect the workers in these plants, because they’re critical to the whole production process.”
The Smithfield plant in South Dakota, which produced over five per cent of pork in the United States, was shuttered Sunday after hundreds of employees tested positive, representing almost 300 of the 700-plus cases in the entire state.
Dickson said that’s a very specific situation that doesn’t reflect the industry as a whole — and that there’s absolutely no concern about supplying Canadians with pork during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re quite capable of supplying the domestic market,” he said.
“Canadian production… almost 60 per cent of it is exported out of the country, so we have plenty to supply the domestic market.
“The big fear for us is that you’ll get breakdowns in the system — for example, of ports or truck drivers, or something like inspection services that we’d never anticipated, so that’s why the situation is always being assessed on a daily basis.”
Dickson said the biggest challenge for pork producers now isn’t supplying local communities, but exporting their products to China, which has recently come back onto the world market.
“They’re important, significant amounts of food — especially pork and beef and so on, so we’re trying to export more into the Chinese market and still supply Japan, South Korea and other markets that are pretty key to us.”