JBS USA has announced that it will temporarily reduce beef production for two weeks at a Pennsylvania facility as a precautionary measure amid coronavirus concerns, according to a report by Reuters.
The decision was made after several senior management team members displayed flu-like symptoms and marks the first US meat plant to cut operations due to worries over the coronavirus pandemic.
In its statement sent to FoodBev, JBS said these team members have been sent home to self-monitor their health in light of the continued spread of Covid-19 and as an “abundance of caution”.
It is not known by what scale production will be reduced or whether JBS’ employees are being tested for Covid-19.
The plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, has more than 1,000 workers and is the largest beef facility east of Chicago. It serves customers along the eastern seaboard and around the world.
JBS said the facility will continue to run “fabrication and ground beef operations” and anticipated the facility will return to normal operations on 14 April.
A spokesperson from JBS told FoodBev: “We wish our team members a speedy recovery and salute the health care professionals who are tirelessly working to protect us all. We also thank our team members and everyone who is helping to keep food on tables during this challenging time.”
The announcement comes after JBS reportedly said it was considering suspending operations at some slaughterhouses in Brazil due to supply chain issues from China.
In a previous report, meanwhile, Reuters cited that JBS SA said the coronavirus epidemic could cause container shortages, port disruptions and other logistics issues, yet trade flows should remain strong due to Chinese demand.
In a recent conference call discussing its financial results, JBS executives said that production levels in the US rose in the past week as consumers rushed to stock up on food but will return to as normal going forward.
During the call, CEO Gilberto Tomazoni said while it is too early to assess the longer-term impact of coronavirus on food sales and logistics, market fundamentals have not changed, citing meat demand in China after a swine fever disrupted local supplies leading to lower import tariffs.
Earlier this year, JBS built a new factory in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso for its Friboi beef business unit to meet domestic market demand.
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