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Smithfield official details impact of COVID-19 on processing sector

The executive vice president of Smithfield Foods says despite doing everything it could, nothing could prepare the world’s largest pork processor for the disruptions caused by COVID-19.

Dr. Dhamu Thamodaran describes a smoothly operating processing system going into 2020.

“Once COVID hit the U.S., things changed overnight. Every business got affected, whether you were a pork business or any business, everything came to a grinding halt.”

Speaking during the Women in Agribusiness virtual summit Thursday, he detailed how the distribution of food was upset by restaurant closures.  Then, he says, plant workers started getting infected.

“It starts with one, (then) eight, 28, 200. Because in the meat industry, people work in close proximity. Beef, pork, poultry, everything, but nothing we can do about this COVID disease. So it caused a large problem in the supply chain.”

Thamodaran says as slaughter capacity gets closer to 100 percent, Smithfield is paying employees three and-a-half dollars more per hour to keep plants staffed and operating costs have doubled.  But he says Smithfield’s focus is on employee safety and supplying food, not on profits.

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