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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) - Information for industry

Last updated: 2020-04-01, 11:00 (EDT)

The agriculture and agri-food sector plays a critical role in distributing safe, high-quality food to Canadians. Maintaining the integrity of the agri-food supply chain during an emergency is essential for all Canadians.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) is closely monitoring developments related to COVID-19 and its impacts on the Canadian agricultural industry. The Government of Canada is taking the necessary steps to ensure that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open, while informing industry of the latest developments.

As the COVID-19 situation develops, AAFC will update the Questions and Answers below.

Questions and answers

Food safety

Can I become sick with COVID-19 from food?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has strong measures in place to ensure the safety of Canada's food supply.

There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.

There is no known risk of coronaviruses entering Canada on parcels or packages coming from affected areas.

If the CFIA becomes aware of a potential food safety risk, appropriate actions will be taken to ensure the safety of Canada’s food supply. For additional information on inspection practices, please consult the CFIA’s COVID-19 website.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued precautionary recommendations including advice on the need to continue to follow good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation, such as washing hands, cooking meat thoroughly and avoiding potential cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked foods. More information can be found on the WHO website.

The CFIA is working with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), other government partners, academic institutions and international partners to ensure appropriate testing facilities are available as needed to support diagnostics and research on this infectious disease.

For the latest and most up-to-date information, visit canada.ca/coronavirus.

What type of guidance is the Government of Canada providing to the food industry?

The food industry should continue to follow guidance and protocols set out by local public health officials. Instructions may vary depending on the spread of COVID-19 in certain areas and provinces, and the products they produce.

More information can be found on the Information for industry section of the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)’s website.

The CFIA has released additional guidance documentation aimed at the meat processing sector, however the same guidance can be applied more broadly to other third party establishments.

What sanitization and quarantine protocols should food workers follow if they become infected with COVID-19?

All food facilities have a duty to follow the guidance of health authorities to protect public health. Facilities should enhance their cleaning and sanitation efforts to control any risks that might be associated with workers who are ill, regardless of the type of virus or bacteria. This is in addition to regular cleaning and sanitation under the business' preventive control plan (PCP). For example, facilities are required to maintain clean and sanitized facilities and food contact surfaces. Additional guidance should be sought from local public health authorities.

For additional information on practices, please consult the CFIA’s dedicated industry COVID-19 website.

Temporary Foreign Workers

Are temporary foreign workers able to enter Canada?

Yes, under certain conditions. On March 27, the Government lifted entry restrictions for temporary foreign workers coming into Canada. Details on exemptions for these workers can be found through Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
In addition to health screening protocols before travel, all individuals entering from abroad must isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.
The Government of Canada is aware of the importance of having enough temporary foreign workers for the agriculture and agri-food sector. The arrival of foreign farm workers and fish/seafood workers is essential to ensure that planting and harvesting activities can take place. There will always be jobs available for Canadians who wish to work on farms and at food processing plants.

Are temporary foreign workers able to stay in Canada any longer due to the COVID-19 health crisis?

Yes. The Government of Canada has increased the maximum allowable employment duration for workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program from 1 to 2 years. This will improve flexibility and reduce the administrative burden for employers, including those in food processing.

Who is responsible for the travel of temporary foreign workers?

As in years past, employers and their associations are responsible for organizing travel for temporary foreign workers. The Government of Canada is working with the countries or origin where needed to ensure flights can arrive in a timely manner.

What role do employers have in ensuring health standards for temporary foreign workers?

The Government has prepared a guidance document for employers and employees to follow upon arrival at the work site. Notably, temporary foreign workers coming into the country will be subject to a 14-day isolation period as mandated by the Public Health Agency of Canada. For detailed isolation protocols addressing temporary foreign workers, please visit Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Further guidelines on workplace safety are available through the Public Health Agency of Canada.

What health standards are required for employers who provide accommodation during a temporary foreign worker’s self-isolation period?

For employers who provide accommodations, self-isolating workers must be housed separately from those not subject to self-isolation, respecting the two-metre distancing requirement. Surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Self-isolating workers may be housed in the same space, but must be kept two metres apart from each other at all times, including in shared facilities (for example, bathroom, kitchen, living space). Several resources are available online at www.canada.ca/coronavirus.

Trade infrastructure

Will the Canada-U.S. border remain open for cargo? Will rail lines, ports and trucking services continue to operate?

The continued movement of agri-food products, both at home and abroad, is essential to Canada’s plan to manage COVID-19.

We have been clear that the movement of goods over borders will not be restricted.

Truck drivers, plane crews and others who are transporting goods are essential to our supply chains. As long as they are not showing symptoms, these workers are exempted from travel bans.

What should I do if drivers are having issues at the Canada-US border?
  • The Government of Canada and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) have set up a specific 24/7 Border Information Service line for companies with border questions related to COVID-19.
  • Any individual, including commercial truck drivers, entering the U.S. needs to meet the admissibility criteria under U.S. immigration law and under current U.S. travel restrictions.
  • It is strongly recommended that when companies call, they have on hand information regarding the driver’s nationality, work status in both Canada and the U.S., their recent travel history in countries outside the U.S. and Canada, and the point of entry.
  • Final decision on admissibility of any individual seeking entry to the U.S. will be made at the Point of Entry by the Customs and Border Protection Officer.
Will the temporary border restriction measures between Canada and the US impact the food supply chain?

The United States and Canada recognize it is critical we preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be impacted by this new measure. Americans and Canadians who also cross the land border every day to do essential work or for other urgent or essential reasons, will not be impacted. For more information, please visit: Canadian Border Services Agency.

Trade

How has the COVID-19 outbreak impacted agricultural trade?

The Government of Canada and G7 partners are committed to supporting global trade and investment during this global health crisis.

Canada and like-minded countries have announced temporary border restrictions to minimize the spread of the virus and to ease the burden on the health care system.

The Government of Canada is monitoring the economic and trade impacts of border closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – and is taking extraordinary steps to ensure that Canadian businesses and workers are supported through this difficult time.

Canadian-made foods are recognized worldwide for the highest standards of quality and food safety.

The continued movement of agri-food products and inputs, both at home and abroad, are essential to Canada’s plan to managing COVID-19.

On March 16, the Government established an Industry-Government COVID-19 working group made up of national sector organizations, who meet by phone 3 times per week to share information and discuss issues facing industry, including potential impacts on trade.

The Government continues to monitor the situation and actions by other countries.

Industry is best positioned to speak on its international trade contracts.

Food supply

What is the Government of Canada doing to maintain a safe and stable food supply?

Our food system in Canada is safe and stable. We produce healthy food in abundance, and our farmers and processors are some of the most productive in the world.

Canadians should have confidence that our food supply is able to respond to demands and our distribution system will continue to operate and meet the needs of Canadians.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that international commerce, trade and supply lines will continue.

We have plenty of food that will continue to reach grocery stores on a regular basis.

To reiterate the message from Health Canada, it is easier on the supply chain if people gradually build up their household supply instead of making large-scale purchases all at once.

Financial support and programs

Will the government compensate farmers and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak?

The  Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial and other partners on ways to provide support during this challenging time. This support will include the expansion of financial and advisory services to the agriculture and agri-food sector.

On March 18, we announced the Business Credit Availability Program, which will allow the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and Export Development Canada (EDC) to provide more than $10 billion of additional support, largely targeted to small and medium-sized businesses.

The Government of Canada also announced that the nearterm credit available to farmers and the agri-food sector will also be increased through Farm Credit Canada (FCC). In response to a variety of industry challenges this past year, FCC has already initiated customer support programs. These programs invite customers to contact their offices to discuss their finances and options.

FCC also offers principal payment deferrals and/or other loan amendments to reduce the short-term financial pressure these unexpected extreme events can create.

As an agricultural industry leader, FCC will work with other financial institutions to find new ways to work together to support customers, producers and business operators throughout Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry.

Furthermore, the Government of Canada announced on March 23 that all eligible farmers who have an outstanding Advance Payments Program (APP) loan due on or before April 30, 2020 will receive a Stay of Default, allowing them an additional six months to repay the loan.

The new deadlines for outstanding Advance Payments Program loans are:

  • September 30, 2020: 2018 cash advances for grains, oilseeds, and pulses.
  • September 30, 2020: 2018 cash advances for cattle and bison.
  • October 31, 2020: 2019 cash advances on flowers and potted plants.

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

Administrators participating in the Stay of Default are the Alberta Sugar Beet Growers, Alberta Wheat Commission, BC Breeder and Feeder Association, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Manitoba Corn Growers Association, Manitoba Livestock Cash Advance Inc., Western Cash Advance Program Inc., PEI Federation of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Credit Corporation.

The Government of Canada will continue to monitor the situation and its impact on the agricultural sector and is actively assessing other agricultural measures as the situation evolves.

In the meantime, under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership producers continue to have access to a comprehensive suite of Business Risk Management programs to help them manage significant financial impacts and risks beyond their control.

Animal health

Can animals become sick with COVID-19?

There is currently no evidence that animals become sick with COVID-19 or spread the infection. Imports and exports of plants and animals to and from Canada are not currently affected. As more information becomes known, the CFIA will take any necessary action to protect the safety of Canada's plants and animals. For additional information on inspection practices, please consult the CFIA’s dedicated industry COVID-19 website.

There have been no reports of COVID-19 infection in livestock species anywhere. As always, producers should follow normal biosecurity measures by continuing to consider the potential risks associated with various people entering their business premises and implement measures to manage these visits.

For more information on on-farm disease prevention, producers are encouraged to consult the National Biosecurity Standards and Biosecurity Principles and National Farm-Level Biosecurity Planning Guide.

Additional information is available from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

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