Trudeau pledges $62.5M for fish and seafood sector amid mounting food supply concerns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $62.5 million for Canada’s fish and seafood sector amid mounting concerns over the state of the country’s food supply. 

Seafood processors and fisheries are worried about whether they’ll have the labour they need — including enough temporary foreign workers — to fill out their workforce, while others have called for delays to the spring season as they work to establish proper safety protocols.

The prime minister said the funds will go toward protecting workers and putting in place recommended health guidelines within the industry.

“We’re giving more money to processors so they can purchase personal protective equipment for workers, adapt to health protocols and support other social distancing measures,” Trudeau said. “For example, fish processing plants could buy new equipment, like freezers or storage space, so that their product — food for Canadians — can stay good while they respond to a changing market.”

Last week, Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement that her department was in talks with industry members about season openings and the state of the sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I recognize the concerns harvesters and communities have around the ability to conduct a safe fishery, and I am encouraged by provincial governments and various organizations and associations who have developed protocols to keep people safe,” the statement read.

Jordan said conversations between her provincial counterparts are ongoing.

Fears over labour shortages, the ability to respect health guidelines and drops in demand come as a number of meat processing plants across the country have reduced operations due to the pandemic.

Outbreaks of the coronavirus have cropped up at several facilities — including one death and hundreds of positive cases at Alberta’s Cargill plant south of Calgary.

“We are not, at this point, anticipating shortages of beef, but prices might go up,” Trudeau said on Tuesday. “We will, of course, be monitoring that very, very carefully.”

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