Food companies offered COVID-19 support

Food companies, including agribusinesses, will be able to apply for relief money from a new $100 million federal fund.

The Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund will be run by Farm Credit Canada.

“This is yet another option to help agrifood companies facing unexpected financial strain,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today during his daily morning COVID-19 update.

He also announced $470 million for fish harvesters.

“Whether you’re a fisher, a food processor or a farmer, we’ve got your back.”

The details of the program are so far unclear. According to Agriculture Canada, it will offer “innovative solutions such as convertible debt investments and other flexible financing solutions.” Companies that can show they have been affected by an “unexpected business disruption” can apply for up to $10 million.

That could include “the loss of a key supplier, temporary loss of a facility or permanent loss of critical staff or leadership.”

The prime minister faced questions about the situation of Canadian Food Inspection Agency meat plant inspectors, 40 of whom have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Their union has said some are afraid to work and are being pressured to work or face discipline.

“We know the situation is extremely difficult in many meat-packing plants across the country. That’s been a real challenge,” said Trudeau.

“We always are trying to find that balance between assuring a safe and reliable food supply for Canadians, which is fundamental and necessary, while at the same time assuring protection of the workers who are there.”

He said inspectors are being given safe conditions and appropriate safety gear.

“Getting that balance right is extremely important. We need to ensure that essential services like the food system continue to flow to Canadians, but we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep workers safe.”

Contact ed.white@producer.com

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