How COVID-19 has affected Canada's premier baking industry trade show
April 15, 2020 ByBakers Journal
In late March, Bakers Journal had a chat with CEO and president of the Baking Association of Canada (BAC) with regards to the show changing dates due to the quarantine. Traditionally slated for the end of April, this year’s show has been rescheduled for November 8 to November 9, 2020. This date change was spurred by concerns of the growing number of Coronavirus patients in Canada. Citizens were urged by Federal and Provincial governments to stay at home.
The most immediate, most urgent concern that the Baking Association of Canada faces is how COVID-19 is being dealt with within the industry. “We have been pretty much consumed with dealing with COVID-19 and its impact on the baking and food industry over the last 4 weeks, or so,” stated Hetherington.
The BAC has been occupied by trying to ensure that bakers and their complete supply chain were classified as essential services so that they could continue to operate and provide a dietary staple. “This was challenging due to the reality that we don’t have a single source of such declarations,” he added. Though the Federal Government has done so, it has not enforced this by law. “Once we had the declarations, more work was necessary to ensure governments were sending out the message the food industry is an essential service, as are healthcare workers and first responders.”
The BAC supported efforts to bring in temporary foreign workers. These workers are necessary for some food processing facilities, particularly for farmers who will need them to plant crops, namely fruit, for bakers.
“We, along with many others pushed for business support programs to aid industry through these challenging times,” continued Hetherington. “The 75 per cent wage subsidy is a good example; work still needs to be done to get money faster to business owners to cover costs such as rent during lockdowns.”
The BAC then needed to provide its members with direction on what to do should an employee show signs of illness. Colleagues from the American Bakers Association (ABA) shared protocols developed in the U.S., which the BAC then posted on their website along with other practices that became available.
“The BAC has surveyed our members to identify challenges. Aside from government support programs, the most critical areas appear to be cleaning supplies, disinfectants, and masks. We understand that health care workers are the first priority, but the food supply chain should be a priority. These are necessary if we are to keep up production.
“The challenge now is getting personal protective equipment (PPE), which is easier said than done, as companies are now competing with countries to get supplies.”
The BAC is now working on protocols for return to work after an employee has been ill. This is complicated as it involves multiple jurisdictions. On top of problems like acquired inventory and health supplies, Hetherington recounts how there have also been border, trucker and import issues that have recently arisen. “It’s been a bit like fighting fires as they spring up.”
Bakers Journal hopes that the fires are contained and no new crises emerge. All anyone can do is prepare themselves, continue to stay informed and remain patient.
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