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BRF CEO warns that meat plant closures could hammer production levels

Brazilian food company BRF SA says the potential closure of slaughterhouses due to the spread of COVID-19 at meat production sites would make it impossible to maintain current output levels.

28 May 2020, at 9:48am

Reuters reports that no BRF plants have closed due to the outbreak, but one facility in Lajeado in Rio Grande do Sul had been shut by authorities to stem the spread of disease among workers.

"We have to be aware that if contagion worsens and authorities see the need to close units it is mathematically impossible to ensure production levels," Luz said.

BRF said this week nearly 340 meatpacking workers at a its Concórdia plant, which employs 5,132 people, had tested positive for the virus and would be submitted to further testing.

As the disease spreads, Luz said BRF will be hiring 5,000 new workers, up from 2,000 announced in April, to offset absentee meat plant employees and compensate for those unable to work amid the public health crisis.

Rival JBS SA is also facing challenges, as it is being sued by labour prosecutors in two Brazilian states over alleged failure to adequately protect workers amid the pandemic.

At the same time, JBS is trying to reopen a plant in Santa Catarina state after a labour inspection found irregularities in measures to control the spread of the disease and a high number of employees who had tested positive for coronavirus.

On Wednesday 27 May, a labour court in the remote state of Rondonia ordered the closure of a plant operated there by JBS until the company tests all employees.

Most of the coronavirus outbreaks have occurred in Southern states like Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, where most of Brazil's pork and chicken processors are based.

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