Olymel to Reopen Pork Processing Plant on Tuesday

( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

Olymel will resume operations at its hog slaughter and cutting plant at Yamachiche, Quebec, Canada, on April 14 after closing for more than two weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The plant has been closed since March 29 after nine employees tested positive for the virus. Olymel normally processes 28,000 pigs per week, Real Agriculture reports.

Processing capacity will depend on the number of employees available to perform each task, the company said in a press release.

“Olymel is working closely with partners in the hog industry to ensure that the flow of hogs continues as normally as possible in order to avoid last-resort solutions like compassionate slaughter or euthanasia at the farm,” the company said.

The plant took advantage of the 14-day closure to implement a new protocol with the help of public health authorities to protect workers’ health and fight the spread of COVID-19, Olymel said.

Employees who have been in isolation since the closing are being called back to work based on a list of criteria approved by public health authorities. Employees will receive training on the new protocols when they arrive starting on Tuesday. A station will be set up at the plant entrance where everyone will answer a questionnaire, Olymel said. They have recruited a medical doctor, Serge Dubuc, a specialist in occupational medicine. He and an occupational hygiene technician will be on site Tuesday to supervise the return to work.

Extra attention will be paid to the transportation of employees via shuttles from outside the Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec region. Shuttles will be required to maintain a distance of 2 meters between passengers, the release said.

Although this guidance can’t be implemented in the plant, Olymel said the company will install panels and/or have workers wear masks and protective visors. The company will also be increasing its monitoring, screening and enforcement of hygiene and disinfection practices.

“On behalf of Olymel management, I would like to thank all of the Yamachiche plant employees, who have been following lockdown instructions since March 29 and have agreed to come back to work on April 14 in these current difficult circumstances. To everyone at the Yamachiche plant and our other Olymel plants who has tested positive for COVID-19, we wish you a speedy recovery,” said Réjean Nadeau, Olymel president and CEO. 

The closure has created a backlog of pigs in Quebec and Ontario, as pork producers in Ontario normally ship around 20,000 pigs into Quebec for processing each week, Real Agriculture reports. Olymel has declared force majeure on its contracts with Ontario farmers, meaning it’s no longer required to meet the terms of those contracts for the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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