Canada's pandemic-hit farmers, food industries get emergency aid
OTTAWA, Canada – Ottawa announced on Tuesday, May 5, Can$252 million (US$180 million) in emergency aid for Canadian farmers and food producers struggling to both feed the nation and prevent spoilage during the coronavirus pandemic.
The world's 5th largest food exporter has faced COVID-19 outbreaks at major meat packing plants leading to a slaughter backlog, as well as a glut of some foods – such as fries – due to the closures of restaurants.
Many farmers are also concerned about a looming shortage of temporary foreign workers to help plant and pick vegetables in greenhouses and in fields.
The aid amount, which fell far short of the Can$2.6 billion requested by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, will go to retrofit factories and increase food production, buy masks for workers, and adapt to new health protocols.
The federal government will also buy surplus foods and redistribute them to food banks and agencies addressing "food insecurity."
"It is not a perfect situation by any stretch," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a daily briefing. "But we are doing what we can to try and make sure that [farmers] are rewarded for their hard work, and that others aren't going hungry."
The prime minister noted "significant disruptions in global supply chains," adding that "food security is a preoccupation for everyone and Canada is an important part of the solution."
He also pointed to significant food waste during the pandemic as currently "too much of certain types of food like milk, butter, and potatoes, is being produced."
Cattle and hog farmers, meanwhile, are facing added costs to feed and store their animals longer because of reduced slaughter capacity.
Outbreaks forced Alberta's Cargill and JBS processing plants, which supply 70% of Canada's meat, to temporarily close or reduce their output. – Rappler.com