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CANADA - The Canadian Meat Council says every job that remains unfilled in Canada's meat processing sector costs another four jobs within the Canadian economy, writes Bruce Cochrane.
New trade agreements are creating new export opportunities for Canada's meat processors but a shortage of workers is limiting the ability to take advantage of those opportunities.
Ron Davidson, the director of international trade, government and media relations with the Canadian Meat Council, says labour is one of the industry's primary challenges.
Ron Davidson-Canadian Meat Council:
People just don't realise how much is at stake.
The meat processing industry is the single largest component of the food processing sector in Canada.
Not only does it provide a market outlet for the livestock producers but it provides a market outlet for grain growers who sell feed grains to the livestock industry.
We have 65,000 workers, according to Statistics Canada, in the meat packing and processing industry and, for every job that's on a production line in a meat plant, a study done by the University of Saskatchewan suggests there are at least another four jobs in the economy.
These other jobs could be on the farm, they could be in the service sector, they could be in transportation, they could be in marketing so even when we have 1,000 jobs available in the meat industry that are unfilled on the line in the plant it means there's at least 4,000 jobs elsewhere in the economy that aren't going filled.
So it has an impact on our jobs, it has an impact on the livestock producers, it has an impact on the grain farmers, it has a major impact on our rural communities, it has a significant impact on our exports and it certainly has an impact on the ability of Canadians to choose Canadian produced food.
Mr Davidson said processors are recruiting as actively as possible among all of the Canadian groups, including unemployed people, new immigrants and refugees and continues to work with government to try to gain access to foreign butchers and meat cutters when it's been clearly demonstrated that there are not enough available in Canada.
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