Olymel’s decision to shutter a Quebec pork processing plant for a full two weeks after nine staff tested positive for COVID-19 means that the pork industry has had to mobilize to ensure pork continues to be processed and that pork producers have somewhere to deliver hogs.
“There’s a lot of upheavals right now, in our sector,” says Rick Bergmann, chair of Canadian Pork Council.
When a plant closes, it’s the first domino to fall, he says, and there are plenty of others right behind it waiting to go. The first concern, yes, is for the health of the workers at the processing plant; and after that, Bergmann says the industry is focused on the producers in Quebec and Ontario that supply that plant.
Bergmann says the puzzle becomes figuring out where the hogs that would have gone to that plant go, and how will that impact another processor or the producers whose product may be displaced.
There’s also the question of ensuring that all plants can continue operating with a full CFIA inspection compliment.
As Bergmann says, CFIA staff, farmers, and processors are all part of the front lines of this COVID-19 outbreak and need to be treated as essential services.
“If we don’t have food, then we’ve got big problems,” Bergmann says. Keeping the food chain going is will keep the food a major priority of the pork sector and the government, he says, and they are working together to figure out how to deal with not just the Olymel closure, but if there are other plant closures as well.
Listen on to the full interview with Rick Bergmann: