Skip to main content
// //

Cargill beef plant is shown in High River Alta., on Thursday, April 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

The federal government has started providing cash for food processors across the country to help them deal with COVID-19.

A $77.5-million emergency fund was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in May to help food processors adapt to COVID-19 protocols, including acquiring more protective equipment for workers.

It was also supposed to help upgrade and reopen meat facilities shuttered due to outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

Story continues below advertisement

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau visited the Exceldor chicken processing plant in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que., on Friday to announce the first wave of funded projects.

“We thought Exceldor was a good example of a chicken plant that was challenged by COVID quite a bit. And they will receive $262,000 to provide PPEs to their workers, hand-washing stations, that type of Plexiglas they install to separate workers from others,” Bibeau said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

“It’s that type of investment that they probably started to make for a while to protect their workers.”

The government has so far approved 32 projects worth $10.5 million, including nearly $805,000 to JBS Food Canada for its meat- processing plant at Brooks, Alta., and $1.8 million for Maple Leaf Foods operations in Ontario.

Sofina Foods, which has 16 facilities across Canada, including the Lilydale poultry-processing plant in Calgary, is to get $995,000. Olymel, with 10 plants across Canada, is to receive nearly $1.8 million.

Cargill, which operates a large beef-processing plant in High River, Alta., is not on the initial list of funded projects.

Officials are still reviewing other applications and future announcements are planned over the next few weeks.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our goal is to have committed the full $77.5 million by the end of the month,” Bibeau said.

The meat-packing sector has been hard hit by the health crisis.

Cargill temporarily shut down plants in High River and Chambly, Que., after COVID-19 outbreaks. Olymel also shut down its hog slaughter and processing plant in Yamachiche, Que., and the JBS beef plant in Brooks temporarily went down to one shift daily from two.

Cargill and JBS operations in Alberta account for 70 per cent of Canada’s beef production.

Bibeau said there’s flexibility when it comes to how the allocated money is spent. It can be used to pay for changes already in place or for future improvements.

“If they wanted to stay in business, they had to take the appropriate measures. Some of them had to close for a couple of days or a full two weeks, and then they were able to restart their processing activities at a lower pace. So it meant less revenue and less production,” Bibeau said.

Story continues below advertisement

“They really made the right decision because it was critical for everyone.”

Exceldor President Rene Proulx said the co-operative plant, owned by 400 poultry farmers, has already made COVID-19 changes the money will pay for.

“Despite the many challenges related to COVID-19 in recent months, we have been able to remain present in order to continue to feed Canadians,” Proulx said in a release.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters and editors.

Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub
Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies