Sunday, April 11, 2021

Four C-K fishing companies receive $1.5-million in federal funding

FedDev Ontario is investing nearly $1.5-million to four fish and seafood-processors in Chatham-Kent to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fish and seafood-processing sector is a key contributor to our economy and food system, and one that has been hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19, FedDev Ontario officials say.

The Government of Canada is supporting processors in this region to ensure their future viability.

FedDev Ontario officials say on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor–Tecumseh, on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, announced a total FedDev Ontario investment of nearly $1.5-million through Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) to support four companies in the Chatham–Kent region, the world’s largest freshwater commercial fishing port and one of Ontario’s key fish and seafood-processing regions.

“Canada’s fish and seafood sector employs thousands of hard-working women and men and plays a critical role in our economy and increases our food security,” Kusmierczyk said in a media release.

“With FedDev Ontario’s investment, we are ensuring that four important fish- and seafood-processors in the Chatham–Kent area are well equipped to comply with COVID-19 safety measures, retain and attract skilled employees and get through this pandemic, emerging stronger than ever before.”

With funding support, these four processors will be able to cover fixed operating expenses, including COVID-19 safety measures, utilities, insurance and employee wages.

They will be able to purchase personal protective equipment required for employees, and retrofit shared workspaces to comply with social distancing measures.

“Fish and seafood-processing businesses are the heart of many rural, coastal communities,” Joly said in a media release.

“They create jobs and help grow the economy. These four investments will help the sector adapt to meet current COVID-19 safety measures, bounce back from the pandemic and play a leading role in our economic recovery. We will get through this crisis together.”

Additionally, they will be able to focus on retaining their skilled labour force and attracting new talent to their hardworking teams, FedDev Ontario officials added.

Here are more details about the four companies:

A&A Marine Foods, a family-owned freshwater fishing and processing business that specializes in the processing, packing and cold storage of freshwater fish for wholesale and retail sales in Canada and the United States, is receiving $500,000 in support through RRRF. When the pandemic hit, demand from the food service industry significantly decreased, forcing the company to temporarily close its operations and pivot to grow its presence in Canada. A&A Marine Foods employs more than 30 full-time, skilled employees in Blenheim. “The RRRF investment will enable us to create more skilled jobs and to expand the supply of our freshwater products across Canada,” said Salvatore Peralta, president and CEO, A&A Marine Foods, in a media release. “It will also be instrumental in supporting a sustainable future for the regional fishing industry.”

Great Lakes Food Company, a harvester and processor of freshwater rainbow smelt from Lake Erie, is receiving $362,000 in support through RRRF. As a result of COVID-19, the company is experiencing a decrease in demand from its largest clients, including buffets, bars and restaurants in the United States and Japan, leading to a decline in sales and an increase in direct costs. Great Lakes Food Company employs 38 skilled employees in Chatham. “The support received from the RRRF fund has allowed Great Lakes to continue to make changes in our operations to keep our staff safe,” said John Neate, president and CEO of Great Lakes Food Company, in a press relelase. “Furthermore, the working capital support has allowed us to accelerate our expansion plans as we prepare for the reopening of our international markets by hiring eight additional full-time staff.”

John O’s Foods Inc., a fish processor and wholesaler of fresh and frozen freshwater fish, is receiving $195,000 in support through RRRF. As the second largest producer of lake fish in Ontario, serving both United States and Canadian markets, the company’s revenues have been significantly impacted by the effects of COVID-19 on its primary clients in the food service industry. John O’s Foods Inc. employs 70 skilled employees in Wheatley. “The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic,” said John Omstead, founder and CEO of John O’s Foods Inc., in a media release. “For businesses like John O’s Foods selling to food service, it has been a time of great uncertainty. The RRRF program has played a critical role in our ability to adjust and continue to produce high quality Ontario lake fish. We are grateful for the support, and to our employees who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic when no playbook existed.”

Presteve Foods Limited, a harvester, processor and distributor of wholesale freshwater fish and seafood from all five Great Lakes and other North American inland lakes, is receiving $400,000 in support through RRRF. As its primary customers in the restaurant industry have been severely impacted by COVID-19, the company is experiencing a 66 percent decrease in sales, and was forced to temporarily shut down production for one month at the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Presteve Foods Limited employs 138 skilled employees in Wheatley. “Thanks to the RRRF funding, Presteve Foods Limited is improving all aspects of our COVID-19 safety measures, including purchasing mandatory PPE, retrofitting existing and new shared workspaces, and boosting our capacity to monitor employee compliance,” said Dan Walda, chief financial officer for Presteve Foods Limited, in a media release.

FedDev Ontario officials say the Lake Erie fish and seafood processing sector accounts for over 80 percent of commercial fishing in Ontario and close to 800 direct and indirect jobs, with an economic impact of over $194-million.

Chatham–Kent ranked in the top third of Maclean’s list of Best Communities in Canada for 2019, and the City of Chatham ranked 9th on U-Haul’s List of Canadian Growth Cities in 2020, FedDev Ontario officials added.

Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan has helped to protect millions of jobs, provide emergency support to families, and keep businesses afloat throughout the pandemic.

One of the critical measures to provide liquidity support is the more than $2-billion Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF), which so far has protected over 152,000 jobs across Canada by providing over $1.3 billion to support over 19,000 businesses and organizations, including 11,000 businesses located in rural areas and nearly 6,500 businesses owned by women, FedDev Ontario officials say.

RRRF was created to support businesses and not-for-profit organizations that have not been able to access other supports and complement other COVID-19 relief measures, taking into account regional needs and realities.

Through this fund, FedDev Ontario is delivering $436.4 million in southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario officials added.

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