America's food supply at risk from coronavirus



The food supply chain, and especially the meat supply chain in the US, is showing signs of weakness with the closure of processing plants, such as that of the JBS meat company in Greeley, Colorado, where a 78-year-old Hispanic worker You have lost your life to the coronavirus.

The Consumer Brands Association (CBA), the group that brings together US food companies, has sounded the alarm and on Tuesday called on the government to act to ensure that workers are protected and can continue to supply supermarkets in the country.

"The US is not running out of products. But the empty shelves reveal that the supply chain is under pressure and the government and the industry must solve it together," the group, which represents, among others, giants such as Nestlé, said on Twitter. or Campbell Soup.

For their part, unions and migrant defense organizations have denounced that meat processing companies, such as JBS USA (a subsidiary of the company of the same name in Brazil) are endangering the lives of workers because they are overcrowded and lack masks or gloves. .

DEATH OF MEAT PLANTS WORKERS

In fact, the virus killed Saúl Sánchez, 78, who worked at the JBS plant in Greeley, Colorado, for three decades, her daughter Beatriz Rangel reported at a press conference on Tuesday.

"We are going to bury my father tomorrow, it has been very hard," said Rangel, who accused JBS of "not having done anything" to protect his father, who because of his age was a population at risk.

Rangel denounced that the workers did not have equipment to protect themselves and assured that, once his father tested positive for coronavirus, he notified JBS to alert them and that they could take measures to help the rest of the workers, but did not obtain any type of response.

In total, the virus has killed three people who worked for JBS or Tyson Foods, one of the main producers of meat in the United States, according to data released Tuesday by the League of United Latin American Citizens (Lulac), an advocacy group for migrants.

CLOSURES IN THE MEAT INDUSTRY AFFECT THE LOCAL ECONOMY

JBS has not commented on Sánchez's death, but announced Monday that it had decided to close its Greeley plant until April 24 because Weld County, where it is located, has already registered 740 coronavirus infections.

"Our Greeley beef plant is critically important to the US food supply chain and to local producers, but the spread of the coronavirus in Weld County requires that we take decisive action," he said in a statement. JBS USA CEO André Nogueira.

Weld is financially dependent on the JBS plant, as it directly employs 6,000 people, 2% of the county's total population, and indirectly generates a large number of jobs.

An example of this are the ranchers, who now will have no place to send their animals for slaughter.

THE SUPPLY OF MEAT TO THE "LIMIT"

In total, at least 12 meat companies have announced the closure of some of their facilities in the United States.

One of the most notorious has been that of the Smithfield processing plant in Sioux Falls (South Dakota), responsible for 5% of the pig consumed throughout the country and where 300 of its 3,700 employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement, Smithfield CEO Kenneth Sullivan said Monday that the closure of the Sioux Falls plant and the closure of other meat facilities is putting the US on the move. "dangerously close to the limit in terms of meat supply," which could lead to empty shelves in supermarkets.

"It is impossible to keep our stores stocked if our plants are down," Sullivan said.

Disruption of the meat supply could have a major impact on the life of the United States, one of the countries in the world where the most meat is consumed.

On average, Americans eat about 120 kilos of meat a year, higher than Spain (118 kilos a year) or Uruguay (98 a year), according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

USA It leads the number of COVID-19 infections worldwide with almost 600,000 cases detected and 25,239 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

Beatriz Pascual Macías

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