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COVID-19 leading to huge struggle for the cattle market

(CREDIT:Pixabay)

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Don’t expect to see any deals for beef anytime soon.

Cattle producers are being hit hard by the sudden reduction in slaughter capacity at processing plants in Canada and the U.S. due to COVID-19.

This week Cargill announced they had to suspend processing cattle, while it addressed COVID-19 cases in its workforce, an issue several other plants like Harmony Beef and JBS are dealing with on varying levels.

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Brian Perillat is the manager and senior analyst for Canfax.

He said farmers have seen the value of their steers drop $450 compared to three weeks ago which has created a major bottleneck in the system hurting both farmers and consumers.

“For the producers, cattle have dropped dramatically because they can’t find a home to get them processed in a timely manner. In the meantime, all of these processing struggles and bottlenecks and reductions, meat prices could remain elevated just to maintain the variety of cuts on the shelves.”

Perillat said while the flow of cattle over the border has slowed because processing plants in the U.S. are dealing with the same issue, beef continues to move well.

He added cattle prices could remain depressed until packing plants can get back to 100 per cent again.

“With Cargill down, it’s struggling with working on getting everything in place for the workers’ safety and health and hopefully next week they can get back to processing some cattle again. It’s tough to say how long this is going to go for, what kind of spreading we’ll see at the packing plant level.”

Meat producers throughout Canada say they’re facing financial hardships due to a slowdown at processing plants.

On Thursday, The Canadian Federation of Agriculture urged the federal government to make the industry a top priority as farmers are hit by higher costs and fewer workers.

The federation warns consumers could see a decrease in the amount and variety of food in grocery stores, as well as higher prices if action isn’t taken.

-with files from the Canadian Press and 680 NEWS