OTTAWA, ONTARIO – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an investment of C$225 million in support of farmers, food businesses and food processors and an additional C$200 million in borrowing capacity for the sector. But Canada’s chicken farmers said that investment might not help them.

The government said this targeted aid program will help food and agriculture industry stakeholders by:

  • Creating a C$77.5 million Emergency Processing Fund to help food producers access more personal protective equipment (PPE), adapt to health protocols, automate or modernize their facilities, processes, and operations, and respond to emerging pressures from COVID-19.
  • Launching a national AgriRecovery initiative of up to C$125 million in funding to help producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19. This includes set-asides for cattle and hog management programs to manage livestock backed-up on farms, due to the temporary closure of food processing plants.
  • Launching a first-ever Surplus Food Purchase Program with an initial C$50 million fund designed to help redistribute existing and unsold inventories, which could include products such as potatoes and poultry, to local food organizations who are serving vulnerable Canadians, among other initiatives.

But Chicken Farmers of Canada said that the government does not fully understand the industry’s need to mitigate specific impacts caused by COVID-19. Canadian poultry growers have lowered their production by 12.6% for May and June and by 11% for July and August in response to concerns about an oversupply of chickens.

“We’re not looking for compensation for our reduced production,” said Benoît Fontaine, chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada. “We’ll take care of this ourselves. The issue arises with the potential of having to depopulate flocks. What we’re asking for is a commitment to cover both the value of the birds and the costs related to any required depopulations due to COVID-19.”

To date, no depopulations have occurred. Stakeholders in the entire value chain have avoided depopulating flocks by rerouting birds when plants have had to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks. However, the unpredictability of the virus means that plant closures and depopulations remain a very real risk, and existing government plans fall far short of covering these losses, the organization said.