CANADA - The Canadian Meat Council has warned that the inability of Canadian meat processing plants to access workers jeopardises the viability of the plants, the profitability of livestock producers, and existing jobs at those plants, writes Bruce Cochrane.
Changes made in June to Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Programme dramatically impacted the ability of Canada's meat processing plants to supplement their work forces and maintain processing capacity.
Ron Davidson, the director of international trade, government and media relations with the Canadian Meat Council notes, when plants are short of workers, they still have to do the slaughter and the primary processing, and the shortages show up in the value added.
Ron Davidson-Canadian Meat Council
The value added areas are where there is an opportunity for some profitability in a very, very narrow margin industry, and if we don't have an opportunity to do value added activities in our plants, the economic viability and sustainability of those plants becomes much more difficult.
The impact on producers, if we don't have enough workers, first we don't buy as many animals, so they're forced to rely on exporting animals to the US for processing, and secondly, if we don't have the value added for the plants, we do not have the ability to pay as much to the producers as we would if the plant was operating at a higher capacity and doing value added.
There's also placing at risk the future jobs of existing workers in those plants because if the viability and sustainability of those plants is challenged, so is the potential for the plant to stay in operation.
In addition there is less product, Canadian produced product on the market, and therefore there would have to be a heavier reliance on food imports and also we have less product to export.
Mr Davidson says Canada has been very successful in opening up export markets but now we don't have the ability to staff our plants to take advantage of those export opportunities.
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