COVID-19 update from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

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Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

General: The Prime Minister announced on April 15, 2020 that the Government of Canada (GoC) is expanding the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) to businesses that paid between $20,000 and $1.5 million in total payroll in 2019. This new range will replace the previous range $50,000 and $1 million and will help address the challenges faced by small businesses to cover non-deferrable operating costs.

The Prime Minister also announced financial support for lower wage workers who are employed in essential services. This will be delivered by provinces/territories, and up to them on who is eligible. From GoC perspective: workers who make less than $2,500 a month, and are essential service workers, would be entitled to this wage supplement.

New Funding announced for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA): The GoC announced $20 million for CFIA to strengthen food inspections and keep food safe. This will allow CFIA to build capacity, allow for overtime, invest in hiring and training to get more inspectors on board. CFIA is committed to maintaining critical services and putting plans in place to ensure critical services continued, which this funding will support.

Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) and Labour: Regarding the recently announced $1500 per TFW entering to assist with associated costs on quarantine. The GoC is working on the most efficient way to deliver these funds, but notes these employers must be following all quarantine rules. Funds may take a bit of time to make it to employers, as GoC needs to ensure rules were not violated by employers.

Changes to Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): people can earn up to $1,000 a month, while still getting CERB benefits to ensure workers have an incentive to take shifts where appropriate.

On technical workers entering the country: people in critical infrastructure are exempt from border closures, and in some circumstances, people coming into Canada for machinery related on food service are exempt from 14-day quarantine. Agricultural and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is clarifying with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for further details.

International Agriculture Supply Chain: Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau spoke with her US Counterpart to ensure continued importance of food and agriculture trade across borders. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and AAFC are collaborating and discussing areas of concern, including reduced capacity of meat slaughter capacity.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has reduced hours at 27 low traffic border crossings, which came into effect April 15, 2020. AAFC will send details to industry stakeholders.

The Canadian embassy in Mexico is open, including work permit applications for critical industry such as agriculture.

Japan has received assurances this week that imports will not be disrupted, and movement of agriculture products are moving well. There is a change in demand as restaurants are not open.

Through the Canadian Embassy in China, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) has heard signs of recovery and increase in capacity. On the food service side, recovery is at 50 per cent. Canada will still see disruptions in second and second tier cities in China, and logistics regarding fresh food (produce specifically). Anyone travelling into China needs to undergo testing and may have to follow quarantine procedures.

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