Canada sees no beef shortage, but prices may rise due to coronavirus

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OTTAWA/WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) – The Canadian government is not expecting a beef shortage despite the spread of the novel coronavirus in certain meat-packing plants, though prices may rise, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Trudeau also told a briefing that beef producers are placing a priority on ensuring the Canadian market is supplied before exporting products.

Canada, one of the world’s biggest beef and pork exporters, has seen several meat plants idled or slowed as coronavirus inspections spread. Cargill Inc on Monday said it would idle its beef plant at High River, Alberta, because of an outbreak.

“We are not at this point anticipating shortages of beef, but prices might go up,” Trudeau said. “We will of course be monitoring that very, very carefully.”

North America has seen a steep drop in meat demand since the pandemic accelerated, as a loss of sales to restaurants, which have closed, outweighed a pickup in revenue at grocery stores.

Beef processors have assured Canadian officials they will prioritize domestic sales, which are their largest and most stable market, said Oliver Anderson, spokesman for the country’s agriculture minister. The government has not imposed any new export restrictions, he said.

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