Guelph Cargill plant shuts down temporarily

Beef cattle processing capacity in Ontario was already strained before the shutdown of the largest processing plant. | File photo

Beef Farmers of Ontario is calling for the activation of the Ontario Beef Cattle Set-Aside Program with the temporary closure of Cargill’s Guelph beef processing plant.

The Cargill Meat Solutions plant will be closed after its processing run Dec. 17, and idled indefinitely, with monitoring day to day for re-opening.

There are 57 cases of COVID-19 identified in the plant, including active and recovered cases.

Why it matters: The Cargill plant in Guelph is the largest processor of beef cattle in the province and its closure will have significant impact on the ability of farmers to move their cattle to processing.

“We understand that the last 12 months have been a tumultuous time for our members as we continue to navigate the lack of processing capacity in the province which has been compounded by the pandemic,” said Beef Farmers of Ontario (BFO) in a statement.

“In this situation, we have been working closely with Cargill and both levels of government over the last several days to find ways to support the facility, its workers and beef farmers.”

The Ontario Beef Cattle Set-Aside Program was announced earlier this year by the federal government to help manage potential backlogs in processing because of the pandemic and has been used in other parts of the country.

BFO says the program could be activated by next week.

“On behalf of Ontario’s beef farmers, our highest priority is to acknowledge the health of the employees and their families, and we sincerely hope all affected individuals recover well from the virus,” the organization said.

BFO encouraged its members to speak to their financial institutions about ßshort-term financial support and also suggested that Crisis Services Canada provides a safe place to talk at any time about a situation. It can be reached at 1-833-456-4566.

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