Canadians may see the price of beef increase, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Tuesday, after an Alberta meat-packing plant was forced to shutdown due to COVID-19.
However, Trudeau said the move will not result in a shortage as suppliers shift to focus on domestic demand.
“We’ve heard from Canadian beef producers and associations that the priority will be ensuring Canadian supply before they move to exporting,” Trudeau said at his daily press conference on Tuesday.
“The priority will be on domestic supply, so we are not at this point anticipating shortages of beef, but prices might go up. We will of course be monitoring that very, very carefully.”
Cargill announced Monday that it would temporarily shut down its meat-packing facility near High River, Alta. due to an outbreak of the coronavirus. The plant processes about 4,500 head of cattle day, which amounts to more than one-third of Canada’s beef-packing capacity.
There were 360 cases of coronavirus among workers in the plant, Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed Monday. The virus has spread beyond those workers, bringing the total cases linked to the plant’s outbreak to 484. One worker from the plant has died.
“Considering the community-wide impacts of the virus, we encourage all employees to get tested for the COVID-19 virus as now advised by Alberta Health Services as soon as possible,” Jon Nash, head of Cargill’s North American Protein division, said in a statement.
Kevin Grier, a livestock and meat market analyst, said there is no need for people to panic about a shortage of beef, as Canada produces more meat than consumers eat. But selection may suffer in the interim.
“It is not a time for consumers to worry, but they are going to see some blank spots on some shelves,” Grier said.
“There will be probably be a continuation of price increases, but not anything like 20 or 30 per cent jump. It will just be fewer products and you might not have the selection you want for a while.”
With files from the Canadian Press