government supports producers with $5 billion increased lending capacity

Canada: Food industry increases pay for hourly staff

Canadian prime minister Trudeau announced $5-billion increase in lending capacity for farmers and food producers in Ottawa on Monday morning. "Canadian farmers and food businesses work hard so Canadians have quality food on their grocery store shelves and kitchen tables. In these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to make sure that they are supported so they can continue providing the good, healthy food that nourishes our families", they say. 

Greenhouses & greenhouse suppliers are also marked as essential businesses in Ontario, meaning that they will not have to close up shop for the next two weeks. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has ordered all non-essential stores and services to close at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses, but now it becomes clear that horticultural projects can continue since greenhouses are the businesses that farm & harvest food and the suppliers support the food supply chain. Also construction services are named specifically: Construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors.  Find the full list here.

Lending capacity
For the increased lending capacity, Farm Credit Canada will receive support from the Government of Canada that will allow for an additional $5 billion in lending capacity to producers, agribusinesses, and food processors. This will offer increased flexibility to farmers who face cashflow issues and to processors who are impacted by lost sales, helping them remain financially strong during this difficult time.

In addition, all eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program (APP) loan due on or before April 30 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan. This important measure, which represents $173 million in deferred loans, will help keep more money in farmers’ pockets during these critical months.

The Stay of Default will also provide farmers the flexibility they need to manage their cashflow when facing lower prices or reduced marketing opportunities. Applicable farmers who still have interest-free loans outstanding will have the opportunity to apply for an additional $100,000 interest-free portion for 2020-2021, as long as their total APP advances remain under the $1 million cap.

Labour issues
For now labour remains an issue for growers, although the federal government said it will exempt temporary foreign workers from some COVID-19 travel restrictions because of their importance to the Canadian economy. 

'While we wait more details from the Federal government regarding travel restriction exemptions and arriving workers under SAWP and TFWP, it is critical that all growers take immediate steps to ensure our current workforce is supported and protected and are prepared for when workers begin to arrive. It is imperative that we take measures to ensure ALL risks to the Canadian public are limited and all growers take actions to mitigate any negative public perception about the arrival of workers", the OFVGA responds.

"Biosecurity protocols for both human and plant viruses should be strictly enforced. As recommended for all members of the public, all non-essential travel of your employees and non-essential visits from suppliers, vendors etc. should be halted. You can facilitate this as much as possible by providing on-farm services for your employees." 

They also published a list with best practices to implement at greenhouse operations. 

Higher wages
Some of Canada’s food processors joined other companies in increasing pay for hourly staff working hard to ensure the country’s food supply remains strong during the coronavirus pandemic.

“In this global crisis, we are compelled to look beyond our business and do what we can to support the many dedicated people who continue to deliver the critical services we depends on,” said Maple Leafs Foods Inc. CEO Michael McCain in a statement.

The food processor announced Monday it would start paying its hourly employees at production and distribution facilities an extra $80 per week. That bonus is in addition to regular and overtime pay.

Cargill Ltd., a Winnipeg-based merchandiser and processor that employs more than 8,000 people in the country, will also dole out additional pay.

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