Maple Leaf temporarily suspends pork exports to China after COVID-19 cases

By | August 19, 2020

MISSISSAUGA, ONT. — Maple Leaf Foods Inc. says it has temporarily suspended pork exports to China after a few dozen workers at one of its plants tested positive for COVID-19.

The Mississauga, Ont.-based company says in a statement late Tuesday it continues to have rigorous safety measures at the Brandon, Man., plant to prevent workplace transmission, and the plant continues to operate.

It notes public health officials have said there is no sign the coronavirus was spread in the workplace.

The company says it voluntarily suspended its pork exports to China after the Chinese government adopted new protocols that require Canadian processors who report a positive COVID-19 case to do so.

RBC Dominion Securities analyst Irene Nattel says in a note to clients that the news “is a slight negative” for Maple Leaf.

She says the pork originally intended for export to China can likely be sold domestically or exported elsewhere — though at lower margins — and that price forecasts already assume some coronavirus-related disruptions.

Maple Leaf says it is seeing short-term increases in absenteeism, but believes this is a short-term situation rather than a material financial event.

CEO Michael McCain says the company is confident in its promise to provide customers with safe food.

“But we respect China’s new import protocols for Canadian products and are working co-operatively with Canadian and Chinese authorities to resume exports quickly.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020.

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