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CANADA - The Canadian Meat Council is warning that unless action is taken to increase the availability of workers to fill vacant positions in Canada's meat processing plants, it will not be possible to take full advantage of export opportunities being created by new trade agreements, writes Bruce Cochrane.
The new Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement has been ratified by both governments and will come into effect on 1 January and negotiations aimed at concluding a free trade agreement with the European Union are expected to conclude soon.
However changes made in June to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program has dramatically reduced the ability of pork and beef processors to fill positions in their plants.
Ron Davidson, the director of international trade, government and media relations with the Canadian Meat Council, says our processors simply can not find enough Canadians prepared to move to rural communities where their plants are located.
Ron Davidson-Canadian Meat Council:
We could easily use a thousand workers in western Canada between the beef and pork sectors right now.
We have plants across the prairies that are operating with 100, 200 empty positions in their plants.
What happens in this case, the plants must slaughter the animals, the plants must do the primary processing so what falls off the table first are the areas where our industry should be making profit.
The cutbacks are coming in value added.
We have plants that are not doing deboning for example that they should be doing and providing some profitability for the plants.
We have plants that are taking byproducts such offals or bones and they're going into rendering, they're going as waste so the areas where we should be making a profit in a very low margin industry are the areas that have to suffer when you don't have enough workers so this is a very very serious problem for the sustainability of the livestock and meat industry in Canada.
Mr Davidson says we have the markets coming but we do not have the workers to increase production for these markets.
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