Washington D.C. [USA], April 29 (ANI): US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order under the Defence Production Act compelling meat processing plants to remain open to meet shortages in the nation's food supply chains, despite reports of plant worker's deaths due to COVID-19.
Trump had highlighted the order during an Oval Office meeting with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis that was opened up to reporters.
"We're going to sign an executive order today, I believe, and that'll solve any liability problems," CNN quoted the President as saying on Tuesday.
The President signed the order after some companies, such as Tyson Foods were considering only keeping 20 per cent of their facilities open.
The vast majority of processing plants could have shut down, which would have reduced processing capacity in the country by as much as 80 per cent, an official familiar with the order told CNN.
By signing the order, Trump declared that these plants part of critical infrastructure in the US.
The administration is also working with the Department of Labor on issuing guidance about which employees who work at these meat processing facilities should remain at home, including workers who are part of populations most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
When Trump announced the executive order, he also told reporters that his administration was working with Tyson Foods.
With many Americans staying home during the coronavirus, industry experts say the demand for meat has increased.
But some of the country's largest meat processing plants have been forced to cease operations temporarily after thousands of employees across the country have tested positive for the virus.
The situation has gotten so severe that meat processing executives warned that the US meat supply could be at risk.
Meat, beef, and pork production reached record highs in March, according to the US Agriculture Department. But earlier this month, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said that at least 13 processing plants have closed over the past two months, resulting in a 25 per cent reduction in pork slaughter capacity and 10 per cent reduction in beef slaughter capacity.
The union also estimated on Tuesday that 20 meatpacking and food processing workers have died so far.
Major meat processors such as Smithfield, Tyson and others say that they have put measures in place like temperature checks and plexiglass to encourage social distancing in some areas and to help keep their workers safe.
But some workers are of the view their employers aren't doing enough to protect them, the media reported further.
In March, the United Nations had warned that the coronavirus pandemic threatened to disrupt food supply chains around the world.
"A protracted pandemic crisis could quickly put a strain on the food supply chains, a complex web of interactions involving farmers, agricultural inputs, processing plants, shipping, retailers and more," the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation said in a report.
The number of people infected by the deadly bug in the US crossed the one million mark on Tuesday, while the fatalities spiked to over 58,300, exceeding the number of American soldiers who lost their lives in the two-decade-long Vietnam War, according to the US National Archive data. (ANI)